31 May 2013

Most of us get involved in a cause because it speaks to us on some kind of personal level. If a loved one has died of cancer or some other disease, we find ourselves gravitating toward charities that deal with that issue. If we love our pets and can’t imagine life without them, we tend to lean toward animal rights organization. 

Then there are those causes that we support simply because they align with our beliefs. For example, when I look back at the past 150 days, I’ve given a fair amount to gay rights even though I’m not gay, but that’s probably come from years of having gay friends and witnessing what some of them have gone through in their struggle to have the same rights I take for granted. 

I also have donated to a number of social justice organizations and am on the board of a foundation that fights for social and environmental justice.  I certainly never had to fight for anything in my life in that regard but as I got older, I saw the inequities facing the poor and the disenfranchised and  couldn’t stand by any longer without trying to do something to make it better in some small way.

This was on my mind today because of this extraordinary video of actor Patrick Stewart that’s been making the rounds the last few days. Stewart was attending Comicpalooza in Texas surrounded, no doubt, by “Star Trek” fans, when a woman asked him a question that prompted a long and beautiful response. 

The woman, Heather Skye, thanked him for the work he’s done to fight domestic violence over the last several years and how he had helped her through her own abusive situation. She then asked him his proudest accomplishment. 

Stewart, in that wonderfully stentorian voice, answered that it was his work  to combat domestic violence against women and children that stood out for him. Extemporaneously, for the next several minutes he spoke eloquently about how he had grown up in a horribly abusive home and he was now able to help other women, though he had not been able to help his own mother. 

He went on to talk about his father and how, only in recent years, had he come to understand that his father, a WWII vet, suffered from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or shell shock as it was called then. While it didn’t excuse his father’s behavior, it helped explain it and it was clear that Stewart now had compassion for his father’s suffering as well. Though as he made clear, “violence is never, ever a choice that a man should make.” 

After he finished answering the question, he tenderly asked her, “My dear are you OK?”  She answered that she was.  Skye was calm and collected throughout, but when someone suggested the two hug,  Stewart and Skye embrace in a beautiful, touching moment. 

I’ve never been a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fan and I doubt I’ve ever seen an episode of the show with Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, though I know he was very beloved in that role. But now here’s a totally new reason to love him. 

Today’s $10 goes to Jenesse Center, a domestic violence intervention program in Los Angeles. Its work includes providing shelter for abused women and children, but also includes counseling, education, training, etc. It provides emergency shelter for up to 30 days, but then has transitional housing that a woman and her children may live in for up to 24 months. 

May 31: Jenesse Center

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