As a child, I was completely annoyed when my Labor Day television viewing was co-opted by the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon. Back in the olden days, kids, you had but four network options: NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and maybe on a good day with aluminum foil coiled around your antenna just right, a fuzzy UHF independent signal floats in and out. I was too old for Sesame Street by then, Hatha Yoga was just too bizarre, and I hadn’t developed the appreciation for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood that comes with adulthood, so I was a total punk kid, crabbing that the stupid telethon was the only thing on. *petulant huff*
“Jerry’s Kids” to me seemed weird and a little bit scary–in my world, there wasn’t a single person who looked like one of his kids, and I didn’t get why he adopted this passel of wheelchair-bound, misshapen children. That alone speaks volumes about one, living in a small town, but even more two, the influence of media.
I didn’t particularly appreciate his brand of humor. His early films, what cemented his fame, the humor in that escaped tween me–he just wasn’t of my generation. Yet I tuned in year after year, squawking the whole time, but dying to pick up that phone and make a pledge. Who didn’t want to be part of that tote board?? My mother would have killed me for making a long-distance call (again kids, in the olden days, each telephone call out of our small town was billed by the minute), let alone promising someone money I didn’t have. I never made the call, and eventually I came to realize that you could spend Labor Day planted somewhere other than in front of the television. I probably hadn’t thought much about MD outside of the Labor Day weekend until January, 2015. Since January 21, 2015, MD is never not a top-5-of-the-day thought. Jerry’s telethon marched on, but with declining viewership. Now kids had hundreds of television channels. Now kids had the internet. No kid these days has to feel forced to watch one of only four channels.
Because of the incredible commitment Jerry Lewis made to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, his benevolence and the awareness he created, my kid gets to attend MDA summer camp. My kid, and others like him, receive therapies and equipment, clinical trials and treatments because Jerry Lewis made the world aware that MD is a thing.
Thank you, Jerry Lewis.
The telethon is no longer airing annually–sign of the times–today the internet buzzes with fund-raising requests. Now it is YOU who answer the call to click. I didn’t make “the call” when I was a child, but I have helped raise nearly $10,000 for the MDA in the three years since my son was diagnosed. YOU answered when I asked. YOU stood beside me as I crumbled that first year especially, and YOU still prop me up when I can barely put one foot in front of the other at the Muscle Walk. YOU read my ramblings here–you don’t do rainbows and unicorns, blindly assuring me everything’s gonna be OK, but you tell me you’ll stay with me through this wild ride.
Thank you, friends and family.
Jerry Lewis said this:
I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
THIS is what you do when you are gifted with the social influence that often accompanies fame: good. You do good. Let’s go do some good today, shall we?
We now return you to your regularly scheduled solar eclipse.