Charity Case

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It's cold. But that's OK, because the constant patter of rain on my Bondi Blue poncho keeps my mind off the cold. However, it's not quite enough to keep my mind off the fact that my toes are soaked and freezing and that I've lost feeling in them. But at least I've had about nine hours to get used to the sensation.

And then, of course, there's the hillside I'm sitting on - the constant rain and the constant milling about of 20,000 feet have turned it into chocolate pudding. But then the next band starts playing - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - and everything's OK. Like the last half-dozen bands to play that afternoon, they're great.

As the sound rises and my lawn chair sinks further into the mud and another accidental bodysurfer skids past me, I remind myself it's all for a good cause. Because this is more than a regular concert - it's a charity concert, benefiting the Bridge School, a local school for children with severe communication disorders.

Caring and Sharing

Standing there in the rain got me thinking about charity. This last year has been especially good to me, as it has to much of the Mac world. And I've begun to develop a real appreciation for exactly how good it can feel to give back to your community when your community has given you so much.

Donating your time, sharing of your knowledge, contributing your old equipment, even doing something as simple as taking a walk, all these things can help others and give you a real sense of accomplishment. Mac users like to think of themselves as being slightly more evolved. Well, nothing could be more evolved than to give of yourself. Think of it as another way Mac users can distinguish themselves, and show that our innate sense of superiority is more than mere posturing.

Givin' Time

Time is money, or so they say. And giving doesn't have to be expensive, or for that matter, cost anything at all. All around the country there are organizations that put together groups for special projects, from beautifying the landscaping of a developmental center to helping sort food for the Food Bank. I've done both of these; both activities took only a few hours on the weekend, and I got to meet some new people who hadn't heard any of my jokes yet. (Although by the end of the afternoon they'd had more than their fill, I'd wager.)

As Mac users, we have special skills that many organizations are dying for. We know how to use a computer, a skill many in our society lack. Users groups are always in search of instructors to help new members get the knack of using their Macs. Many schools, public and private, want mentors to help students after class with typing, programming, graphics, even reading and writing. And most schools have a significant investment in Mac systems.

Even senior centers often look for volunteers to help introduce their clientele to the intimidating world of the Internet. Imagine the sense of accomplishment you would have if you showed an older person how to use e-mail to keep in touch with grandchildren and other distant family.

Make whatever you do a social event. Get your friends together and form a team - you'll be amazed how easy it can be to get started. It may even turn into a regular happening.

Working Assets

I've often thought of turning my garage into a Museum of Macintosh Technology. From that original 128K Mac case I've been meaning to turn into an aquarium for ten years now (apologies to Andy Ihnatko, but he was not the first person to think of turning a Mac into an aquarium) to the half dozen Power Computing clones in various states of disrepair, my storage shelves are packed with the flotsam of a Mac aficionado with more dollars than sense. And we won't even talk about the Newtons, except to say I have at least one of every model ever created, including some that never shipped.

I've recently started the process of divesting my Mac assets, because I've discovered that many organizations out there are delighted to receive machines I've long since cast off. My garage has become like the Island of Misfit Toys, and I'm playing Rudolph. True, I have no real use for a PowerPC 601-based clone, but my local public school is still trying to get by with classrooms full of Mac IIcx machines. (Where do they find the gerbils to keep those antiques running?)

If you have a Mac you no longer use because it doesn't have a G3, or enough storage or enough RAM or an AirPort slot, don't dump it at your next garage sale, donate it. I can almost guarantee your local church, community center, even public school will be happy to take it off your hands and give you a great tax write-off in the process.

Donate Your Body

I'm what you might call coordination impaired. I like sports, but lack the physical coordination to do anything but be an easy target in most team or individual activities. It's pretty sad, actually. The one sport I do excel at is running. Because, really, how much coordination does it really take to run? Step One: Put left foot in front of right foot. Step Two: Put right foot in front of left foot. Step Three: Repeat Step One and Step Two as fast as you can for as long as you can.

It was only recently that I found a way to put running to a use other than making up for a wasted adolescence. And that is running for charity. I found that, without much effort, I could find a 10K race almost every month within driving distance of my home that I could participate in and raise money for a good cause. From the Senior Center in Half Moon Bay, California, to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, there are races and walkathons going on year-round.

Best part is, you don't even have to spend your own money if you don't want to. Many races encourage participants to collect money from sponsors, usually friends and coworkers, who agree to donate a certain sum based on the distance you cover. You'd be amazed how much money you can raise just by going for a walk in the park with a few thousand friendly striders.

If the spirit of the Macintosh is one of creativity and individualism, we should remember that we're not the only ones who should benefit from those traits. Whether we're giving Macs away, teaching people how to use computers more effectively, or just using the Web to find a nearby charity to support, this time of year we should all turn some of our creative energies toward helping other people.

ANDREW GORE is editor in chief of Macworld. To comment on this column, please visit the Vision Thing forum at

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