A little more than a week has passed since I first wrote about the situation with our vendor Clarence and his battle with cancer. Less than a week has passed since that story appeared here on the website and the story really took off (a microcosm look at the print vs online media war if ever I saw one). In that week I have, unbelievably, had my opinions about the world at large and about the quality of man shaken.
In general, you see, I tend to hope for the best in people and to expect the worst. I spin that as positivity tempered by realism, though many would call me a pessimist or even a heartbreak-seeking moron.
As soon as people read the story I'd written, they reacted. The game on Saturday where it first appeared in our paper I saw it. People read the story and came back out of the building to talk to Clarence. People emailed me while they were still sitting in their seats about how they could help. I had a woman in my section, who I'd never talked to before, stop me and say, "I think you write for Game Time and I think you wrote about Clarence. Make sure he gets this," as she pressed a very generous donation into my hand. I know for a fact that she gave more money to another vendor at the next game too.
Once it hit the website we saw another boost. People who had never met Clarence reacted to his story with donations and with emails of support. I also heard from a lot of Clarence's friends from back in his school days. I wasn't surprised to find out how much his long-time friends cared about him, just as they weren't surprised at how much his short-time friends like you and me cared about him.
Shortly after those two stories appeared, the folks at The Committed Indian, who are also insane enough to run a fan-based game-day paper, picked up on it. Sam Fels, the editor of that rag (a term I use as a compliment) wrote a nice bit about it in his editors article. The next day it appeared on their website, Second City Hockey and reflected exactly how the two papers and websites feel about one another. I've long said that of all of the fanbases that come to St. Louis for games, the Hawks fans are the ones I like the best. Mainly because (for the most part) those guys get it. They get that we can hate each other's teams but both franchises have been through good and bad times. We're both from Midwestern metropolitan areas. We both know that Detroit is the worst in everything. We are like brothers: we will fight each other harder than we'll fight anyone else, but we're more alike than anyone else too.
All of which is to say that Hawk fans have stepped up to support Clarence more than anyone other than Blues fans. I have a check in front of me right now with a Blackhawks logo on it. The accompanying email says that the sender hopes we'll cash it even with that on it.
Many of the Blackhawk fans sent email messages. They ranged from, "Fels told me to do this, so your guy must be a good guy," to "I hate your team, but some things are more important that hockey." We got "Go Hawks! Go Clarence!" We got email from one guy who is an out of work Hawks fan saying that he'd find a way to send us a check even though his wife was going to be pissed when she found out. We got a note from someone who lives on Blackhawk Drive, of all things.
Brothers from another mother, indeed.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention another fanbase that contributed. I can't see where everyone is from, but we did publish our story about Clarence on this site the day of the Detroit game. I got one contribution from a Red Wings fan who noted that while he hates us even more than our team, cancer is a "scourge" and therefore worse than us. Presumably. So the Wings do have one good guy out there rooting for them.
At this point, I have a lot of emails that I'll be printing out for Clarence and his family. I want him to see everything people said to him, even if it was just part of their Paypal donation. Clarence and I have have talked a lot lately about the power of positive thinking. He is a positive guy anyway, but I really think that he'll gain more strength from seeing the words of friends, acquaintances and strangers all urging him to do the same thing: to treat this thing inside of him as an invader and to crush it without mercy.
There is more of a battle to fight here and there is more to glean from The Clarence Fund. Surgery is on February 1st and the recovery promises to be long and difficult. But we have done an amazing thing here. Through a lot of donations, most in the $5 to $20 apiece range (though a few amazing people have been able to contribute more), we have raised a lot of cash to help Clarence and his family through this tough time out of work. The Paypal counter to your right shows a nice total, but it just isn't right. Game Time contributed the money to cover the Paypal fees that took away from the funds contributed. We also matched the highest donation made (plus some, just so we could say we were first in something for once). We have $3,000 to help Clarence and his family.
But more importantly, I have a huge stack of paper to hand to him. Your emails and words will help him get up and stay up before and after the surgery. Your personal words and hugs and kisses and prayers and encouragement have buoyed him.
And you've shown me that this world and the people who fill it aren't all as bad as I thought. If karma is real, you people have all earned a lot of it in this last week. I was telling my frienemy Sam Fels of the Committed Indian/SecondCityHockey.com that just when you think the world is a sea of sewage and that the people on the rafts are all asses, something like this changes your mind. I also told him that the next time I see him, as a Hawks fan I'm going to pretend I'm punching the hell out of him, but I'm really going to just be hugging him. I'll happily hug all of the rest of you as well, but you Hawk fans better know I'll be fake-punching you, too.
Just remember: Cancer fights dirty, but all of this positivity for Clarence has earned us some home-ice advantage.
Thank you all.