Thursday, March 05, 2009

A New Superman Rises

James O. Born

I’ve written about how helpful writers can be to new writers and about how there are certain established writers who stand tall among this already great group. I think I have a new standard. It’s a little odd because I’ve known and liked him for a few years. I was impressed by his natural good nature even though he is a big deal in publishing. But this weekend at Sleuthfest, the MWA conference held in Ft. Lauderdale, Brad Meltzer showed what a class act should be.

Here's Brad with the lovely Kris Montee ( half of P.J. Parrish) and Randy Rawls, who was the chair of Sleuthfest this year.

First, Brad was an outstanding keynote speaker on Saturday. He made people laugh, cry and think. That’s hard enough, especially when I think about some of the clunkers I’ve sat through at other lunches. He inspired new writers to write their best book while acknowledging that luck plays a role in any success story. All good stuff.

Then he talked about his belief that ordinary people change the world. A belief that I have always held. He explained that he and his wife followed this belief and now give ten percent of everything they make (to you Baptists in the audience, a tithe) to charity. Specifically to a charity the Meltzers’ founded called Ordinary People Change the World.

A simple mission statement:
To strengthen.
To inspire.
To save.
And most important, to remind us that there is greatness inside all of us.
We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all bold. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. It just depends on the day. And on remembering that we should never ever ever apologize for who we are.
Unless we’re real jackasses. Then apologize away.

What could be more clear?

From saving the house where Jerry Siegel created Superman to developing a volunteer program where young people can teach in Miami schools and get help with college in a Peace Corps-like way, the charity covers a range of issues.

It’s easy to talk about the decline in giving and lament the good old days when everyone took care of each other, but it is a lot harder to actually do something. The organization has raised more than $100,000 dollars to help others. That’s just a figure I heard Brad use and could be misquoting him but the point is they are out there swinging the bat.

I would encourage any of you who read this to visit the site and if so inclined help out.

What charities to do you feel are worthwhile?


  1. Thanks, Jim for such an inspiring post. That you hold Brad in high esteem and have written about his work with such enthusiasm says as much about you as him.

    I'm all for charities with a mission to support children, animals and the environment - I suppose you could say it's those who cannot speak for themselves, who cannot advocate for their constituency, so we have to do it for them. I'm particularly interested in charities that reach out to children in war zones, for as the founder of the Save The Children Fund said, "Every war is a war against the child." And even a natural disaster is a war zone - think "Katrina."

    Here's to the real supermen and women of our time.

  2. We give money to the local food bank, the rescue mission, a local substance abuse program, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Council, and the ACLU. I know I'm forgetting a few.

    I've been a literacy tutor, served on several boards and developed pro bono campaigns for Crop Walk, a chamber music group, a theater, and others.

    I'm currently working on a campaign to raise money for another substance abuse program.

    Is it enough? Probably not. Could we do more? Right now family obligations make it tough, but yes, we probably could.

  3. Beat me with a stick: I never knew about Brad's charity work. Outstanding. Finally, a University of Michigan who's a real mensch! I suggest "Margaux's Miracale Foundation" in honor of Margaux Grossman, which supports research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

  4. Impressive. Some time ago there was a segment on "60 Minutes" that profiled Stan Brock's chartiy REMOTE AREA MEDICAL that provided free healthcare to residents of 3rd world countries but now recognizes the need is as great in the U.S. The individual stories were both inspiring and heartbreaking. You can find this charity at

  5. Thanks for the comments. It was easy to write.


  6. I support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for the work it's doing to help those with CF and to try to find a cure. I have a deeply personal reason for this: both my niece and nephew have CF and I would like to see them live long, full lives.