Thursday, December 4, 2008

Giving More Than A Rat's Ass

According to, the phrase, "I don't give a rat's ass" is of 20th century origin and came about because a rat's ass is small, and the rodent is annoying.

I don't totally buy that, and would to have to choose the phrase came about because, well, let's face it, a rat DOES have a pretty small butt. So if you're going to give a metaphorical comparison about how little you care about something, a rat's ass is very tiny indeed.

I've never measured one, but I'd have to guess that it is less than 2 mm wide, which is pretty small. (note: further web research indicates that a rat's anus is indeed 1-2 mm in diameter. isn't it amazing that there are people who get paid to study such things?)

Fascinating stuff, to be sure, but I mention it in's something I DO give rat's ass about. Or to put it into a metaphorical context, I care a whales intestine about this. (fyi--intestines in humans are roughly 2 times the length of said human's height. In a whale, the intestines are typically 5-6 times the length of the whale. in other words, to care a whales intestines means to care a LOT).

Our show tonight was very was a pay-what-you-can performance, which often draws a lot of homeless people to the theater, or unemployed folks who don't have any money to spend. These are always my favorite performances, because these are people who cannot afford to go the theater, but there is a deep-seated *need* inside them to come be part of the experience. It's a chance for folks without money to be entertained, connect and to escape for just a little while.

The cast was brilliant tonight. The audience was energetic, enthusiastic and had a great time, and in turn, we were at our best too. Easily our best performance as a cast, and even though we've had appreciative audiences so far, tonight was by far the best house we had. It was a real high to play tonight.

And then it all came crashing down. Hard.

After the show, I got caught by several audience members who were congratulatory and wanted to talk about the play and share how much fun they had. I'm normally on my way home within 15 minutes after curtain, but tonight, I was there for almost 45 minutes chatting with audience. When I finally did go outside though, my fun night came to a grinding halt.

A middle-aged woman in well-worn clothes was sitting on the cement sidewalk outside the theater in a light jacket on a very cold night, sobbing and wailing. She had the kind of weathered face that you could tell made her look a lot older than her actual age.

She sat on the ground repeating over and over..."why did they take my stuff? Why did they take my stuff? WHY DID THEY TAKE MY STUFF?"

I didn't know who this woman was. But she looked me right in the eye, bawling, and begged me to answer "why did they take my stuff?"

Talk about a downer. My heart took a hit like a rock flying up and putting a chip in a windshield.

Turns out, she was one of our audience tonight. A homeless woman. She lives in her car and at some point during the show, someone broke into her car and took a few shopping bags that were in there.

Those shopping bags contained all of her clothes...a thrift-store wardrobe to be sure, but all she had. Her official documents. Some makeup. A few trinkets that are worthless to most folks, but priceless to her.
A few pictures. A little jewelry box a dead friend had given her. A cell phone charger. Remnants of her life before she hit hard times and became homeless.

Nearly everything that was important to her was in those two bags.

The last vestiges of who she is. Her past. Her life. All she has left.

To a person who has nothing and is living out of her car, a $30 phone charger is vital. The phone is her lifeline, that charger is what keeps her able to function.

I can't get her cries out of my head.


I spent an hour or so looking thru dumpsters, in the yards around the theater, even checking out trash cans that line the streets waiting for morning pickup, hoping someone took the bags, rifled thru them, didn't see anything of value and then threw the bags in the nearest trash bin.

No luck.

One kind soul took her home so she had a place to stay. Tonight. Because her blankets were gone too, and it's cold outside--you can't sleep in a metal car in the cold without blankets. But her warm clothes were in the bags.

She was in her nicest clothes to go to the theater tonight. Not her warm clothes. Her nicest...her fanciest...because she was going to the theater.

I feel responsible. She was in the theater tonight to see ME. To get some respite, some laughs, to find a bit of refuge from her harsh life. Instead, her life has become even worse.

She came to what she thought was a haven. An escape. A safe place.

If her car wasn't in this place at this time...and she wasn't away from it when she normally would have been inside...

...she wouldn't have lost everything that is important to her.

You really have to hear what that sounds like coming from another person if you haven't. The rawness. It's primal. To have little...and then to have your soul ripped out and be left with NOTHING.

It's haunting.


So I'm starting a collection at the theater and among my friends. I can't get her jewelry box back, but we live in a land of wealth, and while I can't make her whole again, a couple hundred dollars will allow her to get some new clothes, blankets, replace the makeup, get her a charger and maybe restore some faith in her, that while maybe *some* humans are so crass as to steal from someone who has nothing...

...there are also people who care enough to reach out and help someone in a real time of need. Even if that person is a total stranger.

If you care to donate, contact me (Mark Williams) at my email address on Pay Send money. I'll collect money in my account for her.

Heck you can email me at:, with the subject line DONATION, and tell me that you want to donate a certain amount, and we'll figure out how to actually get the money from you and into her hands. I'll make sure she gets some help immediately, though.

I'm starting the fund with $100, and hope to raise another $200 or so by Saturday night when we close. Hey, more would be better--it's not like this woman has spare cash sitting around.

We live in a valley of wealth here. Please, if you care to donate maybe a latte's worth of cash...or lunch money for a day...or the price of a night at the movies...$5, $10 or $20 would go a long way to making a person in pain feel just a little bit better.

Please, give a rat's ass.

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