I am not one of those Wil Wheaton fanboys. I think he’s great and all, but I wasn’t into any of the Star Trek television series, and a place like Comic-Con or Mega-Con or Nerd-Con or Neckbeard-Con is as close to my idea of hell as you can get. Wil Wheaton to me is still Gordie from Stand by Me, a movie I taped off of television and watched every day on a crappy VCR after school for something like 3 months in the 90s. I don’t have a particularly strong sense of affection for Wheaton, though: He seems like a nice guy, and he’s been great for nerd culture, his appearances on Big Bang Theory notwithstanding.
But last night, I was sitting in my car about to go into pub trivia and checking Facebook on my phone, when I ran across a story that many of you have may have also seen on your Facebook walls. I’m not sure what compelled me to read it, but five minutes later, my heart may have swollen 3 sizes and there was definitely something in my eye.
The whole Facebook post is great (as the 11,000 likes suggests). The first half of it talks about Wheaton’s experiences at these fan conventions, how he tries to please everyone without giving himself up completely. Everyone who attends these conventions and signings thinks they know him, and he wants to be able to listen to everyone’s story and sign their stuff, but it’s also important for him to be able to move the line along, be respectful of everyone, and not get too intimate with strangers (for instance, no, he will not go have a beer with you, dude who he’s never met).
But then he gets to the point of the story, and it’s a doozy.
On Saturday, a young woman walked up to my table with her husband and her two children. She handed me a typed letter and told me that she knew she wouldn’t be able to get through what she wanted to say to me, and would I please read it.
I unfolded it, and read her story. When she was a young girl, she had a serious complication due to her Lupus, and her doctors told her that she would never walk again. She had a photo of me, though, that she took with her to physical therapy every day, and the therapists would hold it up for her and encourage her to walk toward it — toward me — while she recovered. She made a promise to herself, she said, that she would walk again some day, and if I was ever in her town, she would walk up to meet me. At the end of her letter, she thanked me for being there, so she could *walk* to meet me.
I looked up at her through tears, and she looked back at me through her own. I stood up, walked around my table, and put about fifteen feet between us. I held my arms open, and asked her to walk over to me. She began to cry, and slowly, confidently closed the distance between us. I embraced her, and we stood there for a minute, surrounded by thousands of people who had no idea what was going on, and cried together.
“I’m so proud of you,” I said, quietly, “and I am so honored.”
We wiped the tears away, and I sat back down to sign a photo for her. I looked at her young children. “Your mom is remarkable,” I said, “and I know you don’t get it, because she’s, like your mom? But you have to trust me: she is.”
The kids nodded, and I could tell that they were a little freaked out by the emotion of the thing, even if they didn’t understand it. They looked at their father, who said, “Mommy’s okay. Mommy’s okay.” That made me tear up again. Mommy was okay, and she is a remarkable woman who defied the odds and her doctors, and *walked* up to meet me. I’m still overwhelmed when I think about what that means, and how I was part of it.
The power of celebrity can be amazing, if it’s in the right hands. I don’t think, however, that there’s very many people who handle that responsibility with as much grace, respect, and kindness as Wil Wheaton. He’s a good goddamn guy. Read the whole post here, and give the guy a “like” to show your appreciation.