Monday, July 25, 2011

That Boy Will Stay With Me

I spent my Sunday standing outside the exit of a Sam's Club (warehouse store), asking people to donate money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

I don't like to ask people for money.  But I have learned that if you don't ask, no one will give.  I can't just set a bucket out and expect people to come to me with their spare change or dollars to donate. 

Fundraising has been hard work.  The easy part has been the initial asking- posting on Facebook, tweeting, blogging, writing and mailing letters.  The hard part has been the fundraisers we've done so far.

We cooked dinner for my church family.  We got donations of some produce and pasta sauce, we shopped, we chopped, we cooked, we stirred, we served.  We made $240.

We wore our team gear and a team of 11 spent 4 hours in a little bar district with a lively night life, asking for donations of spare change, donate a dollar, make a donation to fight cancer.  Over the course of 4 hours, the 11 of us brought in over $600 and we each walked away with $55.

Yesterday, Christy and I spent 8 hours outside that Sam's Club with our table, our Team In Training banner, our pamphlets, our flyers for tomorrow's fundraiser at TGI Friday's, wearing our Team In Training shirts, and asked for donations.  We made almost $600.

There are things I've learned along the way.
  • If you don't ask, they won't give.  It is a small minority that sees the shirt, the sign, the bucket and just walks over to give money.  But if you can ask every person, a good percentage will stop to see if they have some change in their pockets.
  • The appropriate response to someone asking for a donation is either "No" or "No, sorry."  It gets frustrating to be dismissed by people with "No, thank you."  We aren't offering you anything.  We're asking you for something.  You decline with an apology or with an apologetic thanks.  The dismissive, mumbled, no eye contact but I still want to seem polite and compassionate responses are grating.
  • Please don't make cancer a battle bigger than it already is.  We happen to be collecting for blood cancers right now.  "Sorry, I give to Breast Cancer."  I'm glad that you do but please don't make this one cancer vs another.  I didn't realize that we had gang colors with our purple or pink or yellow.
  • While you might think you're being funny or sarcastic, making flippant jokes about cancer already being cured is not appropriate.  One of the biggest reasons isn't so much because it's rude to the fundraisers but becase there is a good chance that someone who is impacted by cancer is also standing there and your words can really hurt.
  • Be prepared to listen. Cancer touches many lives and we had so many who stopped just because they needed to talk.  We had people who didn't donate but who stopped because their loved one had died from leukemia, because someone had just been diagnosed with any kind of cancer, because they just needed someone to hear them and understand the battle.
Of all the people who crossed our path yesterday, there are many that I will remember.  An elderly man with his adult daughter and he's just been diagnosed with myloma in the past year.  He has had to stop chemo because of a leg problem that has to be treated before chemo can start again.  His daughter told me that she and her sister are reeling over all of this, sad and scared and confused.  Another woman stood by and wanted to know about who we were doing this for, who we'd known that had impacted our lives.  Another woman who stopped to donate all the change she had because her young niece died last summer- leukemia. 

But there was one small exchange that had a deep impact on me.  Of all the donations we received, of all the interactions we had, it was the single most powerful for me and it's going to stay with me throughout this journey that I'm on.

A dad and his little boy came up to us.  The boy looked to be about 5 years old.  The dad handed the boy the money and told him to put it in the bucket.

"Put it in the bucket, buddy. This is to help with the cancer Mommy has."

I didn't get to talk to him.  They donated quickly and walked away.  And I watched them walk hand in hand across the parking lot and a lump was in my throat and tears were in my eyes.

That little boy is the same age as my kids.  That little boy's Mommy has a blood cancer.  That man is watching his wife suffer.  These two might lose this woman, this wife, this mother.  But they still made a point to stop and give us a dollar.  That dad still taught his son an important lesson about generosity and charity.

I told many people yesterday that I would pray for them.  Those are never empty words for me.  And I have prayed for each of them and I sent up quick prayers as I said the words.  I didn't get to tell that Dad that I would be praying for them.  But I will be, I am. 

I haven't had a deep, personal reason for fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  I saw an opportunity to do something Big and Good with the running thing.  Cancer is something that hasn't hit close to home and I realize just how blessed I am in that regard.  Friends of friends, loved ones of friends, people I've known in passing or in my past... but not someone close to me.

But a brief exchange with a father and his son reminded me of just how close cancer can get.  Of just how much cancer can take away.  Of just how much there is to fight for, to raise money for.

The little boy with the dark hair and the big brown eyes... his dad with a tiny hint of sadness and a huge amount of bravery in his voice... they represent why I am doing this.  They are why I am asking people to donate money.  They are why I am working on running 13.1 miles, 1 step at a time. 



No said...

Very touching!

CH_BeBestMe said...

I have tears...

Call Me Cate said...

Like you, I've been largely spared from a close relationship with cancer. But a few years ago, I had a breast lump. I'll never forget the emotions during the time that we waited for appointments and tests and surgery and results. I'm glad you're doing this, especially for that little boy, his father, and his mommy.

C. Beth said...

It puts tears in my eyes too. I'm glad yesterday was such a good experience and I'll pray for that family also.

Karen M. Peterson said...

Such a tender experience, Liz. I really love what you're doing and I respect you so much for it.

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

I wouldn't forget that sweet boy, either. I was an oncology nurse...and just a few years back my BIL had a stem cell transplant for a pre-leukemic diagnosis. Thank you for fighting for a great cause...