My (Mostly) Final Word on Cancer… By Steve Safran

I don’t want to be known for the rest of my life as “The Cancer Survivor.” I don’t even want to be known by that label for the rest of the year. So this is my final post– more or less– on the topic. It’s not that I’m going to ignore cancer. It’s just that it’s time to get back to the regularly scheduled programming in this space.

Cancer can make you that person on social media. You know that person:

“The One with Four Thousand Pet Pictures”

“The One with ALL the Opinions about Obama/Trump/Vaccines/Guns”

“The One Who Posts Photo Memes” (so many photo memes)

“The One Who Should be Flogged with a Selfie Stick”

Admittedly, since I was diagnosed in May, my essays have been narrowly focused on reacting to that. But moving on, I don’t want to be “The One Who Only Posts About Cancer (but Didn’t He Used to Have a Sense of Humor)?”

For someone who didn’t immediately disclose his diagnosis on line, I guess I’ve come full circle wanting to give my timelines a break from cancer. For someone who has been paid to advise people to tweet and share and like and network, I wasn’t sure this felt right back in May. So I asked a friend, whose wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, how they decided to update everyone via social media.

I can boil down his advice as follows: People are going to find out anyway, so they may as well hear it from you. And once you decide to share, you owe it to your friends to update them on your progress. In the absence of information, they’ll assume things are getting worse. And vague updates are a really quick way to anger, worry, and annoy your “followers” even when you don’t have cancer.

So, I wrote. I shared the stories about the diagnosis, the weird hospital experiences, the humiliation and, yes, the very dark humor there is to be found in cancer treatment. My friends, supportive blog readers, and my growing circle of cancer survivor allies kept responding positively, so I kept writing. It was the only aspect of The Cancer I had any control over.

This past month, I’ve been raising money through a very silly cancer fundraiser called The Movember Foundation. I’ve grown a mustache, and friends have donated money—many have ignored their razors in hairy solidarity, too. The generosity has been remarkable: My friends have donated $3,200 to charities that concern themselves with testicular and prostate cancer, as well as other men’s health issues. I am honored, humbled, and grateful.

I’m cured now. “Movember” ends tomorrow. It’s time to get back to life without chemo and end the run of cancer-centric posting. I need to write about the new experiences, humiliations, and dark humor that 2016 will bring. I need to find a job. I need to post stupid jokes, mock Britt’s gardening obsession, poke fun at Debby’s height and Jason’s bald head (now that my hair’s back) and, possibly, be a little nicer too.

I want to be known as a lot of things: a friend, a dad, a colleague, a wiseass, a writer, an off-key singer, and a Sox fan. I’d like people to know I’m one of the world’s most average ukulele players. I want to be known as trustworthy, sincere but a little too sarcastic, open to new ideas and yet still set in my ways. I even like being known as “The One Hit by the Bat at Fenway.”

As for now, I’m finished being “The One Who Had Cancer.”

Steve Movember

‘Stash-tastic Stevie

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$100

$100.

That’s a lot of money, right? Or maybe it’s not that much. It’s too expensive for a t-shirt, but pretty reasonable for a wine-fueled lunch for four. $100 pays the babysitter when we’re out too late, or the airport garage when we’re too lazy to bus in from the remote lot. Those red envelopes always have a Benjamin or two inside. Sometimes I find them at the bottom of whatever purse was seasonal during Chinese New Year and it’s a fun little $100 surprise. And then I’ll just use those crisp bills to pay for play date pizzas, or Halloween candy, or another stockpile of phone chargers.

$100. Is it a lot of money? Sometimes. Could it change a day, a week, a life… a Church? Maybe. Maybe it could.

Recently I had a rare and delicious afternoon alone with Zealot Sister. We’re hardly ever together, and never alone. But we were visiting Aunt Billie for her 80th birthday bash weekend and the two of us stole away for a bit of shopping. Midwestern Law dictates that if a quorum of female cousins assembles, a trip to Kohl’s is mandatory. So we did that. But first, it was just Paige and me in the fancy shopping district of Columbus, Ohio buying unnecessary and unnecessarily expensive stuff.

As I fed the meter with stray, bottom-of-the-purse quarters, a young woman approached.

“Can I bother you for some change? I’m so hungry.”

Who has cash, though… am I right? I was already digging for meter money, so she could obviously see how currently cash-free I was. But then I remembered my secret stash—the bill I squirreled away after the $10 fiasco. So I gave it to her.

$100.

I didn’t know her or her story. And like most people, I’m leery of strangers in general and especially street-dwellers violating my personal space. I hardly have a habit of giving away money in such an unplanned, impulsive manner. And I’m sure even as I was handing over the money, I wanted the whole exchange to end quickly because I’m a horrible person and loathe any reminder of ugliness or pain in the world.

“I have no idea why I did that.” I said to Zealot Sister as she looked at me all beatifically and quoted Scripture from memory because Zealot Sister isn’t called Zealot Sister just because it’s fun to call her Zealot Sister.

“Britt, she said she was hungry.”

Yup.

It wasn’t the last request we received on the mean streets of Columbus. And even though I truly had no cash left to give, I wouldn’t have anyway. First of all, I am a horrible person. Also, no one else was hungry.

Is $100 a lot of money? For some, it is always a lot of money. For fewer people, it might not be. For a lucky handful of us, maybe it would be easy to give $100 away all of the time. Not every single day–though wouldn’t that be super fun? But what about once a week, or at least those weeks when you’re in the pews praying for a safer world and protection of the hungry people who have no home or country or shoes or hope. How about sending $100 along with those thoughts and prayers. Not every day; some days there’s only change in the bottom of the purse. But maybe today is the day to give away the emergency bill—because someone else has a greater emergency.

Is $100 too much? For me, it’s not. For me, $100 is the happiest check I write each week. I put $100 in the Church plate to travel along with my prayers for a broken world, hurting friends, and to accompany one thousand thank yous for the life I have. $100 sounds cheap for that sort of thing. To me, anyway.

There are 175 of us who pledge regularly at Church. I assume most people who send in that yearly Stewardship check sit in the pews at least 20 of the 52 weeks of the liturgical year, even with summers off and unavoidable skiing. I wonder… what if all of us dropped $100 into the plate each week along with our prayers for hope and healing? Is it too much? Is it enough to be considered tithing? Is it too little and we’re already sending a yearly pledge so purse change is sufficient for any given Sunday?

The math tells us it could change everything. $100 from some of us, some of the weeks could add up to $350,000 a year, or just exactly the shortfall between what we collect and what we need to keep our Church growing, current, music-filled, and just the way we love it. Is that a coincidence? Not to me.

$100. Is that a lot of money? Is it too much to give a hungry girl on the street, a faraway stranger with no home, programs helping kids living in public housing or those with no homes at all, initiatives to make all of our public spaces inclusivefunds for cancer research, the local food pantry, or to drop into the offertory plate? That’s for you to decide. Giving Tuesday is December 1st. Where is your $100 (or $10 or $100,000) going to go?

Share your $100 stories… the ones that remind us we are One Community responsible for feeding all who ask.

Benjamin

Please add links in the comments to your favorite causes and tell us why you would happily part with your emergency Benjamin to further its mission.

 

Eye-rolling past the memes…

Some mornings, our social media sites are less “hey, look at my kid/cat/foliage/punk art show” and more a shout-y tangle of would be televangelists attempting to grow their ministries. The goal isn’t really for discussion and sharing, but for agreement and accolades. Another evening of Republicans on must-see-TV will cause another flurry of what Steve Safran called “shouting into the echo chamber.” If the end game of that anti-Obama rant, your Stand with Planned Parenthood celebrity re-posts, or your War on Christmas battle cry is conversion of readers, well, you’re going to need better memes. Alternatively, you could scrap those and just post a quickie recipe or puppy-scared-of the-Roomba. Those are always good.

Though I’m beholden and flattered that any of you read this drivel, I am embarrassed by my own contribution to a Look At Me/Think Like Me society. Admittedly, barring rants against the Pinking of October, these blurbs are really nothing more than navel-gazing. And I’ve written it before: I’m politically purple and cannot muster the level of disgust and indignation apparently necessary for launching opinions into the ether. My most controversial belief is that colored Christmas lights are an abomination. Really, quit it with those.

I am quite public about being Church-y, though, and this might be the most provocative thing about me. At a recent meeting with civic-minded volunteers for a fabulous program helping kids in public housing, I “joked” that we should open with prayer. This was received with good-natured, mock horror. And I loved that. Strong opinions shared without humility, humor, balance, or thoughtfulness sadden and worry me. And kindness is sorely lacking in those tweets and updates belittling Belief or angrily supporting a specific worldview. Is there room in your sphere for those who don’t always recycle, for those who love Church or wouldn’t darken its doors, or for someone who thinks meat is murder or that life begins at conception? Is it really so important to try to convert your social media followers? And when did we become so groupthink-y and sensitive?

When strong beliefs are assumed to be commonly held and are shouted angrily into the interspaces, I react like an eye-rolling and embarrassed-for-you teenager, “I’m so sure you, like, care enough to post that. Dork.”

Divisiveness is as unproductive as it is un-loving. None of us has a firm hold on absolute truths. No one is persuasive enough to convince you that Bernie Sanders is our savior or that Matt Walsh has a point. We have ridiculously strong opinions about the Christmassyness of our coffee cups. OUR COFFEE CUPS. So maybe let’s share more of the things that unite us and do our darndest to quiet the earnestly and easily irritated folk who would pit us against each other… by ignoring them. (Dorks.)

I love John Atkinson

I love John Atkinson…