Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rowdy Clubbers and Flying Cash

I was invited to speak about Exercise the Right to Read at a regional Rotary Club meeting yesterday at noon, and a Kiwanis Club meeting last night. I had never experienced the Rotary / Kiwanis style of meeting, but man, it's wild! They have big brass bells that the hit with a gavel (shooting the unsuspecting guest speaker through the roof), they fine people for everything -- being late's five bucks, having a birthday costs you twenty, talking out of turn is, oh...two or three or whatever the president decides. Those meetings are dangerous! And at the Kiwanis meeting they burst forth with song at unpredictable intervals! I couldn't keep up, man. Money was being passed around all over the place, bells kept gonging, and people kept singing. But really, these clubs have fun, and they do wonderful work for the community. (Not to mention serving great food to their guests.) The Kiwanis member who arranged to have me be the guest speaker at last night's meeting is a bookseller, and she's been a supporter of the ETRTR campaign since the day I told her about it. She's also been a "closet smoker" for, what? twenty years? She told me last year that she was going to use the ETRTR campaign as motivation to finally stop smoking, and that her goal was to run a 5K by the time the NYC marathon rolled around. Over the past year she has quit smoking...and started again...several times. The longest she could make it without a cigarette was three grueling days. I wanted so much for her to succeed because I know she's wanted very badly to quit for years, but things were not looking good. Well, last night after I gave my little talk at the Kiwanis meeting, she stood up, paid twenty bucks for her birthday, and then made an announcement: She confessed to the group that she'd been a smoker, and that, as of tomorrow, she'd been 'smoke-free' for three weeks. She's through. She's had it. She's done. And from listening to her talk, I know she's never going back. And what's more, she announced, she'll be running a 5-K on October 14th, and is collecting pledges which she'll send to First Book for the ETRTR campaign. I just sat there looking at her, glowing with pride. And man, you should have seen those people throw cash at her! She even got her birthday money back.

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