Judging

Judging

Sep 28
Judging

I’m not sure if this is the right forum for this, but I need to get this off my chest and it feels too long to post directly to any social media sites.

One of my hobbies is supporting various charity and fundraising events while dressed as the superhero Thor.  There are lots of things I love about it, but one of my favorites is that I can talk about the work that Thor does without bragging about myself.  Thor has helped raise money for several organizations while entertaining guests and helping children meet a “real superhero.”  What’s not to love about it?

Sadly, last night I got to experience what I hate about it.

When I’m out in public dressed as Thor, people typically react to me in one of two ways.  If they think it’s cool, they’ll ask for a photo, or they’ll smile, wave, nod, or somehow acknowledge their “acceptance.”  The other group of people treats me as if I have a contagious mental illness that can be caught through eye contact.

Every once in a while, someone will stop me and ask me why I’m in costume.  I am grateful for these moments.  It gives me a chance to explain that I’m either on my way to a charity event, or that I just left one.  I don’t just dress up as Thor and walk around in public – I always have a purpose for it.  It is not uncommon for people to hand me a cash donation for a charity as I describe it.  Unless I have an easy way to get the money back to the charity, I decline these offers and ask people to instead go online and donate directly to the charity.

It’s the people who make assumptions about me that got under my armor last night.

There are always those people who decide in their own minds what my motives are.  From some of them, their disdain is nearly palpable.  They can think of no good or acceptable reason why someone would go out in public in a costume.  Since they cannot think of a good or acceptable reason, they conclude it must not be good or acceptable.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and people are encouraged to wear pink to help raise awareness.  My mother-in-law, my adopted mother, and several other women who mean a great deal to me have been affected by breast cancer.  So this year I thought it would be cool for Thor to try to help raise money.

I started with the idea of getting a pink cape for Thor and marching in the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” while wearing a pink cape.  Then I decided to use it as part of a fund-raising “gimmick.”  I set a goal of $1,000 and said that Thor would wear a pink cape if donors could combine to meet that goal.  Then I set another level of $2,500 and said that Thor would decorate his hammer in pink.  The final level was $5,000 at which Thor would wear pink ribbons in his hair.  It’s all in good fun and I thought that maybe the idea of “pinking” Thor would help raise money.

In truth, I’m going to wear a pink cape regardless.  I also plan on bringing a Sharpie with me and inviting breast cancer survivors to sign my cape.  I don’t know if that will carry any special significance for anyone, but I really like the gesture and I’ll be proud to march with the names of survivors on my back.

Then something unexpected happened.  The local coordinator for the Making Strides event saw Thor’s posts on social media and shared them.  Then Thor was invited to join the group “Real Men Wear Pink.”  This group of men commits to wearing pink every day of October and also commits to raising a minimum of $1,000.  Since this was already my goal, I agreed, with the understanding that Thor’s name would be used rather than my own.

The kickoff party for the Real Men Wear Pink event was last night (Wednesday).  I came to work early so that I could leave early, giving me time to change into costume and make it to the event on time.  I missed church so that I could go, despite knowing that two of my favorite people would be leading worship that night and I wanted to be there to support them (thankfully, someone recorded video so I can still see it).  I wore a pink t-shirt visible under my Thor tunic – the first time I’d ever worn an undershirt that wasn’t black.

From the moment I reached the venue, I knew I’d made a mistake.  The people there didn’t know what to make of Thor.  Hardly anyone would talk to me or interact with me.  They’d look at me (from a distance) and there might be a smile or a chuckle shared with whomever they were talking to.  There were a few friendly people, for whom I am grateful – they kept it from being a terribly lonely evening.

(EDIT:  I don’t want to sound like I am ungrateful for the commitments these men have made, or that I think anybody there was an awful human being.  That isn’t at all what I’m trying to say.  One of the men has already raised more than his $1,000 goal, which is outstanding.)

All-in-all, I felt like I was in a room with “pillars of the community” and I’m dressed in a costume.  Regardless, “Thor of Springfield” was announced with the rest of them as one of this year’s candidates for “Real Men Wear Pink.”

I’m going to wear pink EVERY DAY of October.  I’m going to do everything I can to make the goal of $1,000.

There were change cans available at the event.  Thinking about the number of times Thor gets stopped for photos, I thought that perhaps he could ask people to make donations to the American Cancer Society.  As always, the photos are free.

So as soon as the event was over, Thor walked around downtown Springfield, stopping for photos for anyone who asked and then asking for a donation.  Not everyone donated and that’s totally okay – that’s what makes it a donation.  After a couple of loops downtown and feeling like I’d exhausted the available possibilities, I decided to try somewhere with more people who were more likely to have cash on them.

So I went to the mall.

I stopped for photos with anyone who asked and then I asked them to make a donation to the ACS.  Almost everyone did.

Then I got stopped by a security guard who informed me that what I was doing was technically “pan handling” and that I was on private property.  He said he wouldn’t throw me out because I was “Thor.”  I don’t know if he knew I was doing it for charity or if that would make a difference.  Regardless, I didn’t push back at all – I wanted to respect him for trying to do his job.  However, I didn’t leave right away.  I completed my circuit of the mall, stopping for photos and NOT asking for donations.

The security guard was never far away.  I don’t know if he was deliberately following me, but it didn’t feel coincidental.

There were still people who asked why I was out in costume, so I told them about trying to raise awareness for breast cancer and to hopefully raise money for the cause.  Some people would notice the change can and make donations.

Overall, I felt like I spent my evening being looked down on and judged negatively despite trying to raise money for a charity.  It’s still bothering me.

Despite it all, Thor gathered $35 in cash donations.  Most of that was from a single $20 that someone donated.  I don’t know who it was, but I am so grateful for their generosity.  That $20 made the night feel not quite so worthless.  Whoever you are, God bless you for that kindness.

As of this writing, Thor has raised $210 for the American Cancer Society.  Not the goal, but still a number I’m excited about (I think only $70 officially counts toward the “Real Men Wear Pink” goal, though).

I’m writing this mostly to get it off my chest and get it “out.”  But I’m also hoping that maybe as you read this you can see how some of your snap judgments might be misinformed and might even hurt someone who is actually trying to do good.

Rather than judge what you think is going on, please take a moment to ask.

Lastly, here’s a link to Thor’s “Real Men Wear Pink” page.  If you’d like to donate, I am most grateful.  If you don’t want to donate…the photos are still free.

Thank you for reading.

4 comments

  1. I am proud of all the charities you help out with. I think you have the biggest heart. Don’t let haters hate on you. You’re a amazing man who loves everyone. Smile and know that the North Clan loves you!!

  2. Beth Lemmon

    That’s so cool, Chris. Love that you are doing this.

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