Some of you will remember that in early November 2016 my wife Becca and I participated in Extra Life, a fundraising movement supporting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through a 24 hour video gaming marathon(!) that many video game fans like us participated in. Let me tell you as an avid video game fan, even for me 24 hours was brutal – you can ask Becca – I got so burnt out that day that I didn’t really return to my Xbox to play until almost 3 months later!
Specifically, Becca and I were able to raise $500 for our local CMN Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky – Norton Children’s Hospital through the sponsors of our effort. It may not seem like much on its own, but as a whole community effort Extra Life was able to garner over $9.1 million last year to help support local children’s hospitals nationwide. That’s nothing to scoff at! In fact the fundraising Extra Life team I was part of, team Giant Bomb, ended up being one of the top 5 teams in terms of funds raised in 2016!
The folks at Extra Life were kind enough to send me an Extra Life medal for raising $500, but I want to make sure I give credit to the few supported who helped up reach our milestone – we couldn’t have raised together what we did without your generosity.
Please know that however little or much you have helped with, its people like you that made Extra Life 2016 a resounding success to support family of sick children. While some mock or don’t value the merit of a video game based charitable fundraiser, I hope those of your friends and loved ones reading this will be inspired and proud of the part you played to help heal kids with Extra Life.
As an immigrant from Saudi Arabia and my native country India, I was a green card holder from 2006-2016 before I became a US citizen. To think of other fellow immigrants that may be restricted in traveling or immigrating due to their religious affiliation (or nation of origin motivated by it) is infuriating.
Times like these, it is clear that I stand in solidarity more with Muslims in America than many of my fellow Christians here. This is a solidarity that is built on my experiences as an immigrant myself and on my lifetime of relationships and experiences with Muslims across India, Saudi Arabia and here in the US. Teachers, best friends growing up, classmates, family friends, coworkers of parents, neighbors – there’s so much that my family and I have benefited from people who identify as Muslims.
Not to mention, to be against Muslims is often code to be anti-ethnic minority (targeting those of Middle Eastern and South Asian origin). I’ve been assumed to be a Muslim before – want to take a guess why? 🤔
If your first response to my thoughts so far is “but ISIS”, I’d wonder if you truly know what many Muslims feel about this. This is painful reality for Muslims to come to terms with before all others. And yet, to be honest, I’ve seen far more Muslims struggle with the problem of violent radicalization than (white) Christians with radical racism.
Have skepticism about Islam being a religion of peace, fellow Christian? What about others’ skepticism of Christianity being a religion of equality based on the history of the church endorsing colonialism and slavery of people of color? My point being we all got skeletons in our closets and it’s not so clear cut, real talk.
I don’t have to theologically align with Islam to affirm Muslim people as humans worthy of any and all freedoms that I enjoy being a Christian. You don’t either.
I am grateful for the winter break I’ve had, and the time to mentally, emotionally and spiritually reset for 2017. I used this time to catch up on some great music albums from the year and read a few books in place of social media and video games (which I still appreciate). Shout out to my parents in law for their generosity hooking me up with Amazon gift cards that have made getting these books affordable! Here are the books in the order I’ve read if you would like to look them up – I’d recommend any of them if you might be interested in the themes they explore.
The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah (Commentary on American Christian evangelicalism as it stands culturally and where it falls short and needs to grow to have any relevance in an increasingly diverse aka non-white country)
The Language of God by Francis Collins (Exploration of the beautiful harmony that exists between faith in God and the pursuit of knowledge through science, coming from the leader of the Human Genome Project and devoted Christian – a refreshing read in light of the many anti-intellectual voices that plague American Christianity)
The Dumbest Kid in Gifted Class by Dan Ryckert (A series of literally unbelievable but completely honest tales from the slightly horrifying yet infinitely amusing life of the Giant Bomb editor from Lawrence, Kansas. Definitely my light read of the break.)
Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (The shortest read of the set, but by far the hardest. Douglass’ memoir is a personal window to an integral part of America’s repugnant story – the evil of American slavery and the struggle of generations of a remarkable people to be free from it. The most heavy takeaway is many of Douglass’ closing reflections on American Christianity as a slave of so-called Christians could very well still apply today.)
One of my favorite pastimes since I was a child has been video gaming. In recent years, the number of games I get and the time I put into them has reduced. But I’m still a patron of the art form indirectly, through following video game website Giant Bomb – where Jeff Gerstmann and his crew cover all the video games I can’t play, and talk about them on two hilariously irreverent podcasts, the Giant Bombcast and The Giant Beastcast.
Why am I sharing this? Well, Giant Bomb and its community of fans participate annually in Extra Life, a 24 hour gaming marathon to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Specifically, Extra Life participants help bring attention to and raise funds for CMN Hospitals to continue saving and improving the lives of ill children even when parents can’t afford to.
Typically, Giant Bomb sets up two Extra Life fundraisers: one run by the staff during the marathon weekend, and the other by members of its fan community a.k.a Team Giant Bomb throughout the year. Last year, I was a donor supporting the staff’s fundraiser. This year, I am teaming up to help raise funds with Team Giant Bomb (currently the 5th most charitable team of Extra Life 2016). It’s a friendly rivalry to beat the staff and help heal kids!
A 24 hour video game marathon? How does that help kids? That’s a fair question, and to be honest, just a video game marathon on its own, just like a running or dance marathon, wouldn’t help heal kids. Rather, it is the hope that us marathoners, as well as you, our friends and loved ones, would help bring attention to and give to the fundraising effort, either because you love video games or love saving children (or both!)
And while 24 hour gaming may sound like a dream come true, it is actually the opposite for many – it is a test of mental endurance and in the latter hours a fight to stay awake if you are soloing it. I surely would never entertain doing something like this if it weren’t for a good cause. Tentatively, this year’s marathon is scheduled for November 5th, 2016. I’ll share more details as we run up to this day. If you play games and want to participate in the marathon with me, please let me know ASAP!
Above is the story of Victoria Enmon, a middle school cheerleader and Leukemia patient who was the inspiration behind the Extra Life movement.
My personal fundraising will be directed to support Kosair Children’s Hospital here in my town, Louisville, Kentucky. My fundraising goal is $2000 by the end of this year, and I have have donated 10% towards my goal to kick it off and show that I’m serious about helping heal kids. Every dollar raised will fund critical treatments, healthcare services, pediatric medical equipment, charitable care and more for my local CMN Hospital.
Can you help support my efforts? I would appreciate a gift of any amount. You can make a one-time gift, or choose to make a small reoccurring monthly gift to help my fundraising success. Please donate by going to the link at the end of this post and clicking the Donate button by my name. All donations are collected securely by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. I appreciate your time and consideration!
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
– Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
This 4th of July is a slightly different one for me than the others I’ve already had living in the United States. This is the first one for which I am no longer a foreigner in the land I live in, but a part of it as an American citizen. Also, in less than a couple of weeks, on July 12th, I will be marking the 10 year anniversary of me moving to Louisville, Kentucky. Back then, I was a 16 year old crossing across two different worlds, coming from living in Saudi Arabia for 5 years. In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago, it others it feels like just a few days ago. So, I am motivated to personally reflect on my time here so far.
That being said, something I have to guard myself against is placing the United States on a high pedestal it does not deserve. While this country has been good to me in many ways, it doesn’t take long to realize I am a son of many sorts of privilege. (How many teenagers can say they got to move to another country – twice?) Ten years in America have helped me understand that this land is broken and in need of help just like any other country.
This sobering reality is highlighted by hip hop artist Lecrae, in his track ‘Welcome to America’ – a snapshot into some of the sad realities about the US. You might have caught his performance of the song on Jimmy Fallon’s nightly show last year, but if you haven’t, I’ve put the song’s music video below for you to watch. I hope you’ll give it a listen. It may not what you want to hear today, but I’d say it’s important to consider the less than ideal state of the union, today of all days, as we reminisce on what this country means for each of us.
As a new American myself, I’d like to listen to your thoughts on the song above. Also, feel free to share your personal stories on your relationship with the United States if you would like. I’ll make it a point to engage with them. Until then, have a good (and thoughtful) 4th of July.