Wednesday, April 29, 2009
If you were in downtown Grand Rapids Michigan on Friday night at midnight you would have seen my family, all dressed up, parading down the street carrying a large potted plant, a piece of artwork, and pushing Lilly in an ergonomically correct office "chair of the decade" as we left the Western Michigan Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund 2009 PROMISE CELEBRATION "Honoring Our Roots", a benefit to raise funds and honor my parents for all their work they've done over the years for JDRF.
We hadn't meant to get all that stuff but we had been swept away in the moment.
By now you have all been to a fund-raising auction so you have probably seen this moment in the evening when, like a perfect storm, the crowd, pumped up by a few drinks, moved to tears by the stories of the afflicted/needy, and spurred on by a little testosterone, begins to bid on stuff they don't really need or want as if it were the last face-mask in a swine-flu pandemic. And there was Jeff bidding like a madman on the "chair of the decade" even though on the ride over we had all made fun of the chair when we read about it in the auction booklet. (Which is funny but not nearly as funny as what happened to my new friend who told us the next morning at the hotel breakfast that she got the Yanni tickets--another much-ridiculed auction item--because her husband (who could not attend) had circled them in the booklet and when she'd called to tell him of their good fortune he said, "Yanni? Who is that anyway?" --and just to clarify, Yanni is not the guy who plays the alto sax, that is Kenny G., Yanni is the other one.)
Anyhoo, at the peak of this bidding frenzy, Jeff, who had already procured the once derided but suddenly priceless chair of the decade and was (as my sister said later) being played like a fiddle by the auctioneer, tried to buy nothing for $5,000.
Yes, nothing. At this point in the auction they had sold all the items and vacations and they began to sell off "a piece of the cure" (or some such term, I don't really remember) and the starting bid was $5,000. It sounds crazy but it works. In fact it works really well--it was madness--here we were in Michigan, a state hit hard by the recession and people were fighting for the chance to buy $5,000 of nothing.
My brother, no stranger to the world of charity auctions (his ex runs these kinds of events) leaned over and said, "Here's where the open bar pays for itself."
Fortunately, I could see Jeff out of the corner of my eye when he raised his bid card and I smacked his hand down before he bought $5,000 of nothing.
This was all for a very good cause. Juvenile Diabetes, a disease that affects my own brother, is a nasty thing that chips away at a human and forces children to prick their own skin several times a day to check their blood sugar and then inject insulin. This is not the kind of diabetes your overweight, eighty year-old aunt has (though she shouldn't have to endure that either) it's the kind babies and toddlers and teens get. It takes eyesight and fingers and ultimately internal organs. It shortens life-spans. In short, it sucks.
So I wasn't too upset when a few minutes later Jeff went ahead and bought $500 of nothing because of course it wasn't nothing at all--it was the chance to help find a cure for this monster and in the end that is a lot more satisfying than an ergonomically correct chair of the decade.
If you would like to buy some nothing, please go to http://www.jdrf.org/ and click on the donate button. I'll let you sit in my chair next time you come over. Did I mention it's the chair of the decade?
PS A special shout out to my new friends and fellow David Sedaris fans from TC and GR. Best wishes for keeping your babies healthy and enjoy that Yanni concert.
PPSS Another shout out to Dick, Dora, Helen, and Marilyn who have also been deeply affected by this rotten disease.