The Things My Child Has Taught Me

Last Thursday, right before I launched the fundraiser, I took my son to a movie.

This is a rarity. He’s almost six, but over the years I’ve only seen two movies in the theater with him. (Three now.) But I knew this was going to be our last chance to see Shaun the Sheep on the big screen. And he’s been very good lately, patient and kind with his little brother, understanding when I haven’t been able to spend time with him. So. Movie.

As we were walking across the parking lot, he said, “Dad, what do you wish wasn’t real?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Is there anything you wish didn’t exist?” he clarified.

“Ah,” I said. Then, because the Syrian refugees had been on my mind lately, I said. “War.”

He nodded somberly. “I wish global warming didn’t exist,” he said.

I was surprised, but not too surprised. Kids are more aware than we assume, so they soak up more information than we think. And as a result, they worry far more than we ever know. And the worries of a child are huge, horrible fathomless things.

When I was a kid, I worried about nuclear war and running out of oil. The first because I was a child of the 80’s during the cold war, and the second because I learned in school that we only had 25 years of oil left, then we’d run out.

I’m guessing I wasn’t alone in those fears. Enough people were worried about nukes that these days we only have about 20% of what we had back in 1986 (Which is still way too many, but better…) Unfortunately, a bunch of people worried enough about the oil thing in the wrong way, figuring out how to get more oil,  rather than how to make due with less. Now, as a result, my son is worried about global warming.

Anyway, we go watch Shaun the Sheep. It’s great, by the way. You should go watch it with your kids if you get the chance. The DVD shorts are brilliant too, if the movie isn’t playing in your area.


Then on the way back to the car, Oot asks me, “Can we play a game when we get home?”

“I’d like to,” I say, “but I’m busy tonight.”

“That’s okay,” he says quickly. Almost as if he’s embarrassed that he asked.

This is the part of my life I hate the most: constantly having to refuse my son’s polite, increasingly unhopeful requests for my time. But these days he’s old enough for me to explain why I’m busy. So that’s what I decide to do.

“Off in a different country, there is a bad war going on. There are bombs going off, and people with guns. A lot of people are scared. A lot of moms and dads have been taking their children and running away so they can keep their children safe.”

He just listens. I worry I might be doing nothing more than giving him worries for the future. But I’ve already started down this road, so I keep going.

“But when these people run away, they have to leave their houses behind. They don’t have a place to stay, so right now a lot of those families are just sleeping in tents. They don’t have clothes or food. They don’t have toys. There’s a lot of them, and they need help.”

He’s still tuned in, watching me seriously.

“I’d love to play a game with you, but tonight I’m going to try and help those people. Some of the families have tiny babies, but they had to leave everything behind when they ran away. A lot of them don’t have beds to sleep in or blankets to stay warm.”

Then Oot cocks his head and says: “Why don’t they just move in with somebody?”

This strikes me as a good question.

*     *     *

Over the last handful of days, our fundraiser has raised almost $250,000 to help the Syrian Refugees.


This is astounding to me, given the fact that we kinda threw this together. Honestly, I was hoping that we’d manage $100,000, but even that felt like a lot to hope for…

What’s even more impressive to me is *how* the money was raised.

When y’all heard about the fundraiser, you stormed in to help. No hesitation. It was like a flood. It made me so proud, and it made me feel less alone. Amanda told me she cried four times that first day of the fundraiser because y’all were so awesome.

Me? I didn’t cry. I spent the whole day laughing. My heart was full of such joy. I laughed more on that day than I had for the whole month previous.

Worldbuilders offered to match the first $25,000 in donations, and I matched the second $25,000. Then, as many of you know, folks started contacting Worldbuilders to offer up money of their own so we could continue to match donations. By the end of our first 36 hours, four donors had given us another $55,000, enough so we could match all donations up to $105,000.

All four donors wanted to remain anonymous. But even if you don’t know their names, you know they’re awesome.

Thank you everyone. Thank you. Thank you. It sounds strange to say, but I really needed this. We’ve done some real good here.

And the fundraiser isn’t over yet.

*    *     *

Our fundraiser is running for a few more days until late Friday night. So if you haven’t donated yet, there’s still time.

What’s more, we’ve had two more anonymous donors come in and offer to help some matching funds for our final days: one for $5,000 dollars, and one for $3,000.

That means all donations up to $151,600 will be matched. And… Ah, what the hell. I’ll kick in enough to bring it up to a nice even number, and we’ll match all donations up to an even $155,000.

[Edit: Hey guys, Amanda here. Just for clarity’s sake, all donations from the $141,600 we were at when this blog was posted this morning until we hit $155,000 will be matched.]

I’m pretty confident we can hit that in the next couple days. And I’m curious to see how much further we can go….

*     *     *

Answers to a few questions:

  • “Why did you decide to raise funds for Mercy Corps?”

Many reasons, but here’s the highlights:

  • 93% of their staff live in and are from the countries where they work – giving them unique insight into the recovery and building long term effects toward resiliency
  • They help when an emergency occurs, but then stay beyond afterwards to help with long term recovery
  • Mercy Corps has earned the highest ratings for efficiency, accountability and transparency from independent charity watchdog groups
  • Over the last five years, 87 percent of Mercy Corps resources have gone directly to help people in need around the world

That said, there are other charities I would have happily thrown in with if Mercy Corps hadn’t been around.

For example, Neil Gaiman’s support for the UNHCR is well deserved. Neil has been out to visit the refugees. He’s been supporting this cause for ages, long before it recently became popular in the media.

Because I live under a heavy rock sometimes, I hadn’t been aware that Patrick Ness apparently got fed up with all of this in much the same way I did, and ran a fundraiser for Save the Children. Tons of YA authors jumped in to help match funds with his fundraiser too. Folks like Hank Green, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Phillip Pullman, Cressida Cowell, Holly Black, and more.

Yeah. Further proof that people are awesome.

  • “So what will this money be doing?”

Many things. Because I think in terms of stories rather than factoids, let me share a couple people’s stories with you.


Houda, 13, was an excellent student in Syria with lofty dreams for her future. When the conflict became too much to bear, her family fled to Lebanon — where they’ve resorted to using a cowshed as their temporary home.

“I haven’t been to school in over two years,” Houda told us. “I loved my school and I miss going to class and seeing friends.” She attends programs at one of Mercy Corps’ Child Friendly Spaces, which provide play and psychosocial support for children who have endured trauma, but she hopes to return to school one day.

“I don’t know what the future will bring, but I have not lost my dream of becoming a doctor someday…or maybe an artist. I’m not sure yet.”


25-year-old Zeena was a university student with great aspirations until violent clashes erupted around her home in Syria. She studied philosophy and law and planned to become a human rights lawyer, but those dreams were put on hold when her family was forced to flee to Arbat Transit Camp, a tent settlement in northern Iraq.

There, her studying was replaced with daily chores like cleaning the family’s living space, collecting water and taking care of her brothers.

But Zeena has since found a positive outlet for her energy in Mercy Corps’ conflict negotiation program. She underwent training to become an official negotiator in the camp, and now helps settle disputes between its growing number of residents.


In Syria, 10-year-old Omran had a fun-loving childhood: He went to school, played with friends and enjoyed helping his dad with his construction work. When the conflict uprooted his family and sent them to Jordan in search of safety — they now reside in Zaatari Refugee Camp — Omran became distraught and angry.

“I miss Syria and my home. I miss school and playing with my friends,” he says. “I miss swimming. I played soccer with my cousins and friends in the field behind our house. I miss my house and the graves of my two brothers the most.”

In Zaatari, Omran plays soccer every day through Mercy Corps’ sports therapy program, which uses sports to give refugee children the opportunity to make friends and cope with stress. “That’s the only thing that relieves me,” he says.

  • “What the hell is happening in Syria anyway?”

To answer this question more effectively than I ever could, I’m going to turn to John Green, who made an excellent video about the history and current implications of the crisis.

  • “Why don’t they just move in with someone?”

This is a good question. But the fact that there are more than 4 million refugees make it hard to answer.

The US has offered to accept 10,000 in the next year. And the first thing we have to say is that this is good. It’s a good thing. It’s more than we were doing, and it’s a good first step.

But the next thing we should probably admit is that it’s a very small step toward resolving the overall crisis.

It’s a big topic. But once you strip away all the outer layers, it comes down to the fact that there are families with nowhere to stay. People who left everything behind to to keep their children safe. Families that own nothing. Kids with no beds to sleep in.


If you were in that situation, you’d want someone to help you. To give you a place to stay. Helping people who have been screwed by circumstance is the humanitarian thing to do. It’s the human thing to do.

But the fact remains that even if everyone did suddenly, magically, have places to go. It would take a long time to sort it all out, and they need help now.

So for now, we’re going to do what we can to help.

If you want to throw in with us, here’s the link to our fundraiser.

Thanks for reading, everyone…


This entry was posted in calling on the legions, Oot. By Pat20 Responses


  1. angarcia41
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 7:48 AM | Permalink

    Thank you so much for the opportunity to actually do something, instead of just sitting and watching the news dead-eyed. When I feel like I don’t want to be part of this species sometimes, I look to you and to Neil and to everyone who’s given as examples of just how good humanity can be.

  2. TLadd
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 8:38 AM | Permalink

    “I miss my house and the graves of my two brothers the most.”

    Holy shit… Here I am feeling sorry for myself over having to sell my Seahawks tickets in order to make rent… in my warm, safe, comfortable apartment which I get to keep living in. I don’t have much to give right now, but if going without Starbucks and beer for a month will allow me to help even one person to find warmth and a hot meal, it is a small sacrifice to make.

    • Posted September 16, 2015 at 12:49 PM | Permalink

      Yeah. That quote kinda got to me too….

  3. Chris P.
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 8:52 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for the opportunity and leadership Pat…. happy to be part of this and found that WorldBuilders is part of company matching…. but to get that matching, I didn’t use this donation page. So either way its getting matched, and if we figure out how to reconcile it might get doubled up again.

    Please know that your leadership brings out the best in us.

  4. Dethblight
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 9:05 AM | Permalink

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    I wish for once, we as a country (or a species, really) could just forget all the politics and just say “Let us help, come stay with us.”

    • Karissima
      Posted September 17, 2015 at 9:18 AM | Permalink

      ^^^ I got nothing as good as this comment.

    • 1999Brock
      Posted September 17, 2015 at 2:31 PM | Permalink

      After everything else that has been said, this poem just about made me cry. It wasn’t the stories, or the videos, or the facts. Nope, it’s the 133-year-old dedication to the Statue of Liberty. You never know, sometimes.

  5. Kthaeh
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 10:34 AM | Permalink

    Here’s where it might be good to mention to Oot, and give props, that Pope Francis has called on every Catholic parish in Europe to take in one refugee family. That would be about 126,000 families (so I’m guessing somewhere around half to three-quarters of a million people) that get to “move in with someone.” It would be nice if the US opened our doors to more than 10k refugees, then the Pope could call on American parishes to take in one refugee family as well. Just think how many people could be helped if Catholics took the pope seriously on this issue, and if other faiths spoke up for these people too.

    I’m an atheist, but I have to admit that religion can be a force for good at those times when it harnesses its hierarchy and organization to do good works for the most marginalized. We atheists need to do our part too, and look out for organizations like Worldbuilders, Heifer, and other charities that make up for our lack of organized non-religion.

  6. Liam
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 1:02 PM | Permalink

    ““I knew it was bad over there,” said Janet Kwan, a Vancouver nurse. “But nobody told me there were kids in Syria.

    “I thought places like that were just all dudes in their mid-20s with guns.””

    Odd how satire can make you want to laugh and cry at exactly the same time.

  7. abigail.mast
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 2:27 PM | Permalink is finding people to host refugees, Airbnb style!

    • Posted September 16, 2015 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

      Thanks. I’ve been looking for something like that.

    • Karissima
      Posted September 16, 2015 at 6:00 PM | Permalink

      Is there anything like this in the US?

  8. Jeremiah Josephsen
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 4:22 PM | Permalink

    Hey Pat, Google’s homepage has a link on it(put up fairly recently) about Syria and they are matching donations up to the first 5 million euro. I already gave what I could to your fundraiser, but if people still want to donate after Friday this might help. Their donations get split up to places like Doctors Without Borders, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, and UNHCR.

    • klaxon12
      Posted September 17, 2015 at 2:10 PM | Permalink

      Thanks, great to know another way to get dollars matched!

  9. AlexisFaye
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 6:39 PM | Permalink

    On wondering if you’re telling Oot too much, too soon… The best parenting is an on-going conversation with your child… There are no conversations which are taboo, as long as you know how deep to delve, and what words to use. It is easier to start the conversation early and awkwardly than too late and too little…

    Which is why I would have long monologues about sex and drugs with my 9-month-old. I figured I needed the practice… : ) She’s nine, now. It’s still awkward, sometimes.

  10. F.N.T.
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 11:33 PM | Permalink

    As a slight aside, I was a little lifted today to read that the father who was carrying his son at the time of being kicked and tripped by that deeply misguided camerawoman has been given a job at a sports school in Madrid (the school officials wanted to “help a fellow coach” – he was a football coach in Syria).

    Lots more drops needed to make an ocean to drown all this crappiness, but every drop counts, and this one made me do a mini fist-pump.

  11. lenamoster
    Posted September 17, 2015 at 7:38 AM | Permalink

    I’m very glad this fundraiser is open until Friday (aka payday). I just got into a car accident over the weekend and totalled my car, so we will have to buy a new one, once all the insurance paperwork has been processed and we know what kind of settlement is coming so we know what we’ll even be able to afford (based on new monthly payments and budgeting and all that super-not-fun stuff). But you and your son is absolutely right…I was supremely lucky to have walked away from that accident nearly injury-free and I still live in a country that’s not war-torn and I still have a job and a home to go to at the end of the night. So I think I can still find at least $25 to help out. That’s not going to break a downpayment on a car, nor ruin our monthly car payment budget. That’ll just make our groceries less fun. I can manage that to help these people out. And if all of us fans could manage that, just imagine what Mercy Corps could do.

  12. Kthaeh
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 9:14 AM | Permalink

    Just saw that google is matching donations for the migrant/refugee crisis. As of this writing, the fundraiser is within a few hundred thousand dollars of its goal. But if anyone wants their donation doubled and Pat’s Mercy Corps fundraiser is already all doubled out, this google fundraiser is still an option, for the moment.

    (Will cross-post this on Pat’s most recent blog post as well.)

  13. Boneman
    Posted September 22, 2015 at 11:14 AM | Permalink

    You know, I was kind of sad that you didn’t play with Oot, but totally get the reasons why… but there’ll come a time when you’ll think ‘I wish I played with Oot’, and you can never get that time back. There’ll always be demands on your time, but none as important as those with your children. Next time, maybe: “Just a quick game, Oot, we’ve both got lots to do after.”

    Keep up the phenomenal work Pat, and congrats on the Award – totally deserved!

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