Monday, May 3, 2010

It's A Beautiful Day . . .

Sunday was a gorgeous day, spring was starting to pop out all over. I was still emotionally raw from the St. Baldricks' shaving event the day before, so I did what I always do when I have thinking to do - I headed outside. I am truly blessed in that I can just walk out to my shed, strap on snowshoes, and head up the mountain in my back yard.
Here I am maybe 1/4 of the way up and starting to get a good perspective of the neighborhood. I was going to post borrowed pictures of the event on Saturday but I realized that wouldn't fit - with very rare exceptions, I never post any one else's photos here - this is, after all, my sense of place. I chose not to take pictures on Saturday, except a couple; I chose to cheer everyone else on and soak it all in. Those that take lots of photos on a regular basis will understand. There are several places you can go to see excellent pictures: Jane posted some, Brian posted some, Katherine posted some, and there are tons floating around on Facebook. With live coverage on local TV, you can even order a copy of the DVD from Pipa.
You know you are starting to gain some elevation when you have the eagles looking over their shoulders. And speaking of eagles, over 50 folks donated "on my head" - some of them multiple times - raising over $3300 to help cure childhood cancer. Almost half of the donations were from people I have never met in person.
I am almost up to the lake above my house. Several foxes shadowed me as I dragged my fat butt up the mountain, as curious about me as I was about them. Sometimes they observed me openly, sometimes they crouched down and spied on me, apparently completely unaware their dark heads were silhouetted against a snowy background.
I learned a bit about myself in the fundraising process. Folks tend to form a shell, especially those folks of a certain age, maybe my age. There is room to move around in the shell, but not really any room to grow. Any growth is going to involve cracking the shell, and its going to hurt, at least until you grow a new shell. I discovered I don't really like fundraising, because I'm sensitive. To ask people for money, you are putting yourself out there. I'm not good at asking for things - I'm the guy who will buy the tool or figure out another way to do the project before knocking on the neighbor's door. With a cause like children's cancer, the cause isn't really controversial, it is something that is more or less universally agreed to be a problem in need of a cure through greater funding. Since the cause is so self-evident, asking people for money becomes personal; of course they agree the charity needs funding, but why now, and more pointedly, why give the funds because I asked. I'm really good at donating my money for causes, especially local non-profits, but asking others to donate is a whole different thing.
This is the view from the very top, looking toward Ballyhoo and the Dutch Harbor side. It is a great hike for anyone who hasn't made it before. This is the double-edged sword that is fundraising - you are stunned and humbled by the generosity of some people (my college room mate from almost 30 years ago - who I have not seen in the interim - gave $100, for example), and then there is the other side. It's not like I went door-to-door, but I did email quite a few folks, I put it on Facebook, and I pestered people who read this blog pretty regularly for a couple weeks. I do not check my blog stats more than once or twice a year, but out of curiosity I'm looking at them now. It looks like around 8,000 people read this blog with some regularity, from 77 countries. 58.51% of them use Internet Explorer, 21.64% of them use Firefox, 17.13% of them use Safari, and 2.27% use Chrome. DSL is the most common connection speed but 10% are still on dial-up, and 4.09% are on a T1 (the lucky dogs). When I started blogging from out here 3 years ago, Unalaska readers were almost unheard of but now that city ranks #2, behind only Anchorage, in number of hits. Garden City is #3, no idea why. And, my pig-headed logic dictated, apparently only 0.6% wanted to help cure cancer in children. That is, of course, not correct. Everyone wants to help cure cancer in children. I would even suspect that any major charitable organization would be absolutely thrilled to have a 0.6% donation rate from a fundraising appeal. But still . . . I'm not a major fundraising organization, I'm Steve. . . . .

Here's the odd thing: there are a number of people who read my blog that I have helped in the past, either directly or indirectly. So when I wrote in this space that St. Baldricks was important to me, it was interesting to note donations were pretty much inversely proportional to any help I have given in the past, with some rare exceptions.
This is the view as I work down from the ridge into the gully and prepare to follow my tracks back down to my house. Looking back on this fundraising experience, my first, I can almost equate it to the Kubler-Ross grief cycle. During my "anger" phase, I told Goldfish I was going to make "Sense of Place" a private blog, by invitation only, open to only those that supported St. Baldricks' (it's easy to do, we have a family blog that is closed and requires a log-in to access). Goldfish told me I was an idiot, and she's right - she is very wise.

I'm at the acceptance stage now though, and I have to say I am both very glad fundraising is over and I can get back to wandering around the island taking pictures, and very excited for next year when Team Emery will again raising money for St. Baldricks. To all the other shavees, I am so proud of you. If I was competitive in fundraising, I apologize. I think by getting a number out there, it did push the pace a bit and raised the bar overall, giving the event as a whole a better result.

For all you wonderful donors out there, sometime in the next week or two you'll be getting a thank you post card in the mail. That isn't me being competitive and setting the stage for next year - it's because my Mom taught me that was what you did when someone was really nice. Cheers everyone, and thank you.

12 comments:

Bren said...

Little bro, you have always done for others since you were little. You are correct, you NEVER, ever, ask for help!!! It can be frustrating when you are recovering from surgery. That being said, I feel horrible that I couldn't give more, since you have given me so much! Love ya

Alaska Steve said...

Sis, you know this isn't about you - you did give, relative to your ability. I was just exploring my feelings about the whole process. I'm a bit fascinated by it, I could never imagine not buying girl scout cookies, or charitible raffle tickets, or "___________" fill in the blank. I don't think I'd make a good social worker - actually, i think I'd make a great social worker but I wouldn't live very long . . .

Margrita said...

You are so right Steve I often find it hard and humbling to ask for him. I want to try to do it on my own even now when I am Physically unable to do the task I still want to try. I am like you amazed at how people will spend money on a new video game or DVD or fast food meal instead of assisting such a worthy cause. You pictures of your walk are breathtaking they are so beautiful. They make the scenery come alive. I want to say to you thank you for participating in this wonderful event you were awesome.

unalaska said...

Now I feel real bad...I donated to my nephew all that I could afford. I should have split it up. Mea culpa. But I still love you anyways and totally believe in the cause!

TexasHoosier said...

Hey Steve...I don't post often, I'm a bit shy when it comes to that--but I wanted to tell you that I am so very proud of you and what you have done. Think of the awareness,if nothing else,that you have created with your blog, I am certainly enlightened. Blessings to you! ~Cheers

Suzassippi said...

Being a social worker, I find people's thought processing an intimate experience--seeing and understanding who they are and how their experiences have shaped who they have become. Sometimes when I read a post of yours, I get an immediate sense of what it says to me, and sometimes--like this one--I have to read it several times. It always reminds me of Edward Albee saying about his plays, "I want people to think about more than where they parked the car when they leave the theater." Maybe I give you too much credit and you are just not that deep LOL but I like the way you make me think about more than where I parked the car. And I would agree with Goldfish on this one--her comment reminded me (yes, everything always reminds me of something) of a fellow social worker who once said, "I try never to criticize where along the continuum of development my sisters are." It is a hard thing for me to do, and I work on it constantly, and sometimes a reminder is helpful.

Thanks for sharing a bit of who you are with the rest of us.

Alaska Steve said...

Well Suzzassippi, I definitely wanted readers to think about more than where they parked the car . . . . but I never, ever wanted to make my dear island sister Unalaska feel bad, who cares so deeply and gives so generously to the same causes I do. I re-read my post, it is rough and in need of a re-write but it accurately conveys my thought process at the time, a raw snapshot of the continuum. And I am an idiot . . . but ya gotta give me kudos for self-awareness!

Margrita and TexasHoosier, thanks for joining the dialog. I'm a horrible blogger, so short on time, so oblivious to the readership. I can't have it both ways, writing just for my father to read with his oatmeal and yet expecting everyone else to care what I think . . . . I do truly appreciate regular readers, whether they comment much or not, and some of my best friends are people I rarely if ever see. Cheers and thanks again everyone . . . .

Carol Anne said...

Oh my gosh. I feel so bad. I've been away from reading your blog for a few weeks/(months?) with family troubles. I didn't know you were fundraising.


I asked you for bad weather photography advice once and you took the time to reply to me. I appreciated that very much.


My husband and I are going to give to the clean up efforts in the gulf. I'm going to add a little more in honor of your head shaving. I'm sorry I wasn't around to give when you needed donations.

Richard & Penelope said...

Well Steve I am very proud of you and always have been. you are a kind generous man who any dad would be proud to call son. Your writings are beautiful and paint a picture all by themselves. I do very much enjoy them and also the photographs, especially the wildlife. Enough for now I have to get back to my oatmeal. Love Dad

verybadcat said...

there have been times in my life that i have helped people i knew sorely needed it. bought an electric blanket. slipped an envelope stuffed with cash into someone's inbox the week before Christmas.

my Daddy always tells me that when you have something to give, you give it, and when you need something, you get it, but it hardly ever comes in the form of a payback. because the people you helped *needed* your help, and the people who helped you were in a position to do so.

just another perspective- that as frustrating as it is, we don't always see karma in a tight knit circle- it's too big for that.

i admire your strength in asking for donations, committing to such a worth cause, and narrating the whole experience with such raw honesty and breathtaking scenery.

<3

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Wow -- GREAT photos once again!! You are gonna have a FABulous selection of photos for your next calendar! I use a lot of your photos for beautiful desktops!

Awesome, Steve!

BZ

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

P.S.

A few years back I gave $1,000 to a blogger I'd never met, who had a family, whilst he was going through some hard times.

Also recently bought a car for a local lady who has been through some very lean fiscal times, who has two kids and a husband. She works her ass off every day of the week and still wasn't making it, and her other car perished.

BZ