I grew up poor in a very wealthy suburb of Philadelphia, akin to Minnetonka or Edina, but older and wealthier. Not long after graduating from high school, I heard a hip hop tune by Grandmaster Flash called ‘The Message‘ that had a powerful influence on the process I would undergo for the next decade toward understanding the world around me. One song, one message that became a kind of launching lens through which I would make sense of the transition I made from a suburban to an urban frame of mind. I tell you this because I’ve been thinking a lot about the message I want to convey through this film I’m working on.
I had a wonderful conversation with my friend Tom last night. I generally do, considering Tom and a few other friends and I have been getting together every Wednesday night for almost 7 years. We hang out, in my backyard, this time of year around a fire, drink wine, smoke (some of us) and talk about most everything. These friends have become my brothers; especially during the many months after Gabe’s injury when they helped me process what happened, allowed me to vent, advised and cried with me. But last night I received a very nice confirmation, in a kind of sideways direction, regarding the message I’m trying to build with this Chris Kluwe movie.
Well after a few of the other guys left last night, Tom and I talked til just about 2am. The conversation started with him interrupting my repeated offer of thanks for his help in recording all of the audio during the film shoot. He said, ‘Matthew, you don’t need to thank me, I feel so stupid…Tuesday rocked my world.’ and ‘I’ve never really understood what happened to Gabe until Tuesday.’ He went on to describe how he was happily and dutifully going through the film shoot, checking levels, listening and adjusting the boom mic to get the best recording possible, until we got to the Courage Center gym, and saw Rob Wudlik (C4/5) walking (with assistance) across the gym floor.
He then said, ‘I’m so sorry, that it took somebody else and not Gabe to open my eyes about this whole spinal cord injury thing, and what it is you’re trying to do.’ I spent a lot of time trying to explain two things to Tom: 1. I understand why it took a stranger to ‘open your eyes’ and 2. What you’re telling me is exactly why I embarked on this project.
Tom has known Gabe since he was about 10, and has seen him fairly often since his injury. He even recorded Gabe’s band’s demo CD a few months back, so he’s not exactly a stranger to what’s happened to Gabe. And more importantly, he’s heard me talk about the issues that have arisen from Gabe’s SCI for years. And maybe even more importantly Tom is a smart and empathic guy. But it took a little exposure to the enormous amount of courage and hard work that people with SCI have to face in order to, in this case walk across a gym floor a few times, for the scales to fall off and Tom to see more clearly.
That’s my hope. Thanks to Chris’ generosity and grace I hope to introduce people to what talk often fails to accomplish. And if I can do that, we just might be able to nudge folks enough to support a small sacrifice on the part of Minnesotans to fund the effort to find a CURE.
If you haven’t signed my petition yet, please click on the link below the header of this blog, and share it with all of your friends. It matters.