I grew up in Pittsburgh, which was Mr. Rogers’ home town. Unfortunately I never had the chance to meet him but I regard him as one of the most hardcore people who ever lived. He is one of my biggest inspirations. I know many people who did meet him or work with him and they all have great things to say about him.
When I am having a particularly tough day I tend to ask myself, “What would Mr. Rogers do right now?” You can see at the bottom of my company’s website I actually have a quote of his hidden in the footer.
Not everyone understands why geek culture and conventions have always been a big part of my life and on some occasions people have made fun of what I do. I tend to handle them pretty well.
You see, this all started out as simply something I enjoyed and wanted to participate in. As I continued as an artist and cartoonist I had the opportunity to meet many people. Some of these people found great strength in my work, which surprised me. I never thought I was anything special. I was just doing my thing. My thing just happened to be something that made people laugh or smile. I always took the time to sit with and talk with anyone who came to my table. I never was too wrapped up in my art – I always saw it in so far as how people interacted with it. In many ways I see my visual art as performance art. If it touches someone or makes their day better than I have won. The people were always infinitely more important to me than any of my art pieces.
I eventually started staffing cons because I saw some things I didn’t agree with and I am a big proponent of getting involved instead of complaining.
The feedback from people that my work – art AND staffing cons helped them. Deeply. People left abusive relationships, pursued education, felt that they finally fit in, and found better lives because of my work.
Then I started Intervention to further that directly. Intervention is specially a makerspace to help people move forward in life via their creativity.
Then I started (Re)Generation Who: The Doctor Who Convention for Every Generation. It had one of the strongest starts in indie convention history – all because of what my organization had been doing for many years.
The people have always been important to me than any other noun in this equation. Including “money”.
Regardless of how blunt my Daily Real Talk may sound, it’s always about the people before I even look after myself. That’s why when I talk to people who don’t understand the convention world I sometimes change how I talk about it. Instead of saying I run geek conventions I may phrase it in a way that they understand. I like to feel that most people understand how important and powerful it is to be there for everyone and to put out events that truly serve the community, regardless of if they understand geek or any particular fandom. I am a master at getting a geek hater to eat their words.
The people who have told me directly that the work that we do saved their life or helped them out of seriously bad times are many. I don’t think I’d bother with doing anything that I do if it weren’t for the people who we can help and the great friends that we have made. At one event that I did in the past I lost about $10,000 – personally. My friend Frank approached me and pointed out to me that there were attendees who had broken down in tears of joy for what we had done that weekend. He knew that even one attendee feeling like that was worth the loss to me. I’ll gladly work extra freelance hours to make that back up.
That’s how I measure success.
If anyone doesn’t get it, I can explain all of this and show them this video below. I’m a master at confronting sour people with humanity and compassion and placing what we do into terms they can understand to the point that continuing to hold onto their hatred makes them feel terrible. If you are pressed for time and have to skip, make sure you pop back in at the end of the video.
Mr. Rogers understood how important it was to be there for people before I was even born. He says it correctly here – we are servants. That is our responsibility in media. I’ve had many moments like this in my life already – all because of conventions, geeks, and My People.
He is one of my inspirations, my staff and attendees are the other inspirations in my life. Even the biggest geek hater can understand that – and if they can’t, that’s fine. They can continue sitting at their table for one. I’ll be partying with My People.
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