Monday, September 12, 2011

Come On, Geeks: Get Out There and Do Some Good

Sunday started far too early for my liking, but it was a beautiful day for a walk in the park for a good cause. My wife and I got up early and drove into Vancouver to Stanley Park to participate in the annual Parkinson SuperWalk fundraiser, hosted in this neck of the woods by the Parkinson Society of British Columbia. My mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's several years ago when she was in her mid-late 50's, so this event's got a personal meaning to me. As a result, my wife and I have been taking part for the past few years.

Shortly after arriving we met our friend Jill Sanagan, co-owner of White Dwarf Books, who was there with her father who's fighting Parkinson Disease (the picture, from left to right: Jill, her father, and the tubby gent in the cap is me). It's always nice to chat with people at events like these, but even better when you run into friends, and most especially when they're fellow SF fans turning out to do some good.

Once things got under way we split up: Jill and her dad doing the shorter 2km walk around Lost Lagoon, and my wife and I heading off for the 7km walk along the Seawall and then through the heart of the park (I lumber along at a pretty quick march, but the wife likes to run and goes tearing off, waiting once in a while to take the odd photo as I catch up, then bolting to the finish line). I ended up finishing with a time of about 1:13, and I'm very grateful to the friends who so generously sponsored my efforts.

The point of this wandering little tale though is not to brag about my speed (or lack thereof) in taking a stroll by the sea on a sunny morning, or to teeter atop a moral high-horse, but to remind all of my fellow fanboys and fangirls out there that you can do good in your community. It isn't that hard and every little bit counts for a lot.

I say this because I know far too many geeks who don't really contribute much to the community. Oh, they're good friends and nice enough people. They work hard and are wonderful to geek-out with about this book or that movie or TV show, but they don't give much back. They don't do fundraisers or volunteer or support the efforts of others. And really, I have to ask, why not?

Sure, everybody's busy. Work takes up an obscene amount of time for most people these days. People have to, and should, make time for their families and friends. Then there's allotting time for reading or watching whatever or gaming or going online to endlessly rant about the afore-mentioned stuff. But that's not really enough. If you don't do anything, you don't make your community better in a general sense; you miss out on an opportunity to broaden your horizons, test your skills, meet new people and help turn a bad situation around; and let's face it, if you don't reach out to others, you're feeding into the stereotype of the socially-crippled nerd holed-up in his basement disconnected from the outside world. To be fair, it seems to be a social trend these days for a lot of people, not just geeks, to tune out their surrounding physical community and to just focus on themselves and their personal networks. But that's not something that will make us a better society or better individuals in the long run. And it's something we can change.

To make communities that work well, that are the places where we truly want to live, to better ourselves and create a better impression of who we are, we have to give something back. And the thing is, geeks are the perfect people to do that. We're smart, creative, hard-working, highly-motivated and highly-networked. We're the perfect people to draw attention to a good cause and to raise money to support an effort to make things better. We should be leading the charge!

There are lots of cases where fanboys and fangirls are making things better, at blood drives and community events and fundraisers for all kinds of special causes, and that's awesome. But there are plenty who don't. And they should.

So here's my challenge, fellow geeks: get out there and do some good! Find a good cause, any cause that helps other people or makes your community better and get behind it. Donate your time, maybe a little spare funding, or go out and be the fundraiser or contribute your special area of expertise. Round up your local Brown Coat chapter or Trek starship crew or Gilligan's Island Ginger vs Mary-Anne debate society or whatever and pitch in at a community event. Strike out on your own and join a volunteer group or raise funds for a charity. Put in an hour or two in a one-shot effort, or contribute on an ongoing basis. If you know someone who's holed-up in their basement not doing anything, give them a verbal kick in the ass and get them participating. And if your friends are involved in something and they ask for your support, back them to the hilt. The bottom line is that the old cliche is right: we're all in this together so you might as well make an effort to make things better. Find a good cause and get involved.

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