We Are The World

August 12, 2010

When all was finally said and done, it wasn’t appearing on CNN in a tutu – nor appearing on CBC in a tutu, or posing in Central Park in a tutu, or watching as a limo slowed down on Fifth Avenue and the passenger leaned out the window and hollered – at me – hey, I saw you on TV in that tutu! - that stood out as the most memorable moment of my week last week. Which, when you think about it, is memorable in itself: I had a week in which I appeared on CNN in a tutu and that particular experience will not be recounted here because, during that particular week, stranger things happened.

Stranger things, like the prayer circle.

I don’t even know why the prayer circle was there, in the elevator bank in a remote wing of the convention floor of the Sheraton in Times Square. I was there because I had gotten lost, and, as usually happens when I get lost, I had rushed determinedly in whatever direction seemed most promising and in this case it was toward a bank of elevators that, it turned out, was hosting a prayer circle. And my first thought was, oh. They’re blocking the elevators. My second thought was, and they’re praying.

My third thought was, and I’m wearing a tutu.

I considered, for a moment, turning back. But turning back meant trying to retrace my steps through the maze of the convention floor and I wasn’t really sure that I could manage that and I was late and I was frazzled and I was pretty sure that if I didn’t keep moving I would just collapse to the floor and cry. So what if there was a prayer circle, praying, right there? Those were the elevators that I needed.

So I walked up to the circle, holding the layers of my tutu close to my body so that I wouldn’t make too much rustling sound and disturb the prayer. This shouldn’t have been a concern, because they were praying really, really, loudly, but still. For some reason I felt as though my tutu, with all its ruffles and tulle and bounce, might represent some kind of affront to their spirituality. I edged close to a woman on the outside of the circle.

“Excuse me,” I said, in a dramatic whisper that wasn’t strictly necessary, given how loudly they were praying. “Excuse me, but I really need to take the elevator.” The woman turned to me, looked me up and down, and smiled. “I saw you on TV,” she whispered. “You’re a good woman.” Then she resumed her prayer, and, continuing to pray out loud, put her hand on my back and gently guided me forward through the crowd until I was near an elevator. Someone pressed the button, and I just waited. Everyone looked at me and – not breaking the rhythm of their prayer – smiled.

I might have cried right then, but I was distracted by the fact that I was the only one who was a) not praying, b) white, and c) wearing a tutu. I smiled back – it was, I think, what is usually described by unimaginative writers as a ‘brave smile’ – and concentrated very, very hard on willing the elevator to come. Then I noticed that their prayer had changed.

“…and Lord, give this good woman strength, and surround her in love, and take care of her nephew, and her family…”

That was when I started crying.

Last week was – notwithstanding the hurt and the drama – so full of love and support and generosity, and that love and support and generosity sustained me through the hurt and the drama and that in itself is extraordinary. But as I said in this video interview, and in many media interviews, the only thing that surprised me about that outpouring of love and support was its volume. I already knew that this community is a loving community, a generous community, an extraordinary community. It’s lovingness is one of the reasons that I’ve kept blogging through the most difficult times, why I’ve felt empowered and emboldened to share even my darkest secrets and my deepest fears in this space. Even when the trolls have come out from beneath the bridge and trampled the flowers here, I’ve kept going, because I know, I’ve always known, that this is a community of good people. And then last week happened, and I realized: this community is so much bigger than I ever imagined. This community is made up of women bloggers and parent bloggers and lifestyle bloggers and food bloggers and naked bloggers and social media rock stars and PR experts and journalists and restaurateurs and trampoline businesses and politicians and tutu-wearing preggos and friends and strangers and random passers-by in Central Park and a clutch of beautiful people praying in an elevator bank. This community is online, and off. This community is the world.

tutus-for-tanner-run-jen(photo credit: JenIsJen)

I spoke a lot with people last week about the power of social media, about how we who use social media are so empowered by this medium, and about whether this changes everything, whether this – the power of a community on the Internet – changes the world. It does, of course. This medium is powerful. We who are using this medium are powerful. But there’s more to it than that. It’s the medium – and that medium is us, our voices, magnified through the tool that is social media – and the message. We are only as powerful as the stories we tell, and our stories are only as powerful as the heart and soul that drives them, and it is when we dare to raise our voices to tell those stories, share those stories, and when we do so with all our hearts, that we connect with other hearts and voices and inspire them to join us in our story, our song, our prayer. That’s what is powerful. Social media is just – just? – the megaphone, the amplifier; we are the storytellers, we are the voices raised in a kind of narrative prayer, we are the medium, and the message, and we can change the world.

We did change the world, a little bit, last week. You did, all of you with your beautiful, powerful voices, your good hearts and your prayers.

Thank you.

(Because I know that it will be said – I know this, because I am thinking about it – it’s important to point out that social media doesn’t work this way for everyone. Not everyone gets their stories heard. Which is another story entirely – one that I’ve been thinking a lot about this week, and one that hurts my heart, and one that I think demands attention – one to which I will direct my own attention – but I don’t think that it negates the force of what I’ve suggested above: that when our voices are drawn together – by the pull of stories that reach right into our hearts – they do become an amazing force, and that the real power here is not just in the tool that we’re using, but in the goodness that is driving us to use it.)

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    Loukia August 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Just beautiful.

    Marie August 12, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Hi Catherine,

    I am not stalking you but please read and reply to your emails. I’ve managed to put things in motion regarding two of Tanner’s wishes and would love to have a status update re: what’s been fullfilled and not.

    Many thanks!!


    Catherine August 12, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    @Marie, I’m working through my mail right now – it’s a big big slog – but I’ll look for yours as soon as I can!
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..We Are The World =-.

    Kelly August 12, 2010 at 11:54 am

    I was so glad to be a small, tiny part of raising awareness about Tutus for Tanner. I realized after our 5k was done, that everyone that had raced, or worn a tutu had brought some small amount of awareness to what was happening, and I suddenly was overwhelmed with how little I feel like I do, and how much it can add up when we all use our voices together.

    Social media is an amazing thing. It helps when you have powerful amplifiers like you, Scott and so many others shedding light on Tanner’s story.

    Thank YOU for the opportunity to be a part of something amazing.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Pay your Savings Forward- SaveTogether =-.

    Catherine August 12, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    @Kelly, that just made me cry. More.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..We Are The World =-.

    Kelly August 13, 2010 at 2:12 am

    @Catherine, Sorry! I can’t help it, I was and am so moved by what you’ve done.

    Smilenwaven (Dianne) August 12, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    The prayer group part gave me chills!! ‘What a week you guys had’ is putting it mildly! BUT in the end, looks like/I hope more good came out of it than bad!

    Karianna August 12, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    It was lovely being a part of this – that we were ALL a part of this.
    .-= Karianna´s last blog ..A New York Minute =-.

    Catherine August 12, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    @Karianna, I was so happy that you were there :)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..We Are The World =-.

    Diana M. August 12, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Catherine, you did it. You managed to capture your thoughts and feelings about something so emotionally draining and you did it so beautifully. Your eloquence and heartfelt storytelling has me in tears. You really are a “good woman.”
    .-= Diana M.´s last blog ..That’s How SHE Blogs – YMC Party Mummy Quiz =-.

    Catherine August 12, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    @Diana M., I try ;)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..We Are The World =-.

    Zahra August 12, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    This year I attended my first BlogHer, and I learned about your nephew Tanner. I was so touched by his story, and by your story. I can’t help by get teary-eyed when I think of all your family has been through. I have nieces and nephews and a daughter of my own, and it is easy for me to put myself in your shoes. I don’t know that I would have the strength and the wherewithal you have exhibited were our roles reversed, and I have to say that I really admire you. You are using social media and traditional media in a way that they should be used to do good and help others. Bravo.
    .-= Zahra´s last blog ..Always Crunch Time =-.

    ModernMom August 12, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I followed your story from home, here at my desk chair. On the news and on twitter. I cheered for you and boasted about the power of twitter to my Hubby.
    Your post had me tearing up by the second paragraph.
    Hugs to you and all of your family.

    Quiet whispers really can help make this world a better place….

    Alison August 12, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    You touched the lives of a lot of people by sharing your family’s story. I think that must be a beautiful and terrifying thing to do. The love, the hate, the support and the judgement are all a part of living an honest life out loud. We never get to decide how people will react to us, not ever. We can only be ourselves with all of our truth and scars and have that be enough. What i saw this week, was a woman who loves her family and who was brave enough to let others help – which can be the hardest thing of all. Sometimes, it is much harder to let yourself be prayed for, than to pray.
    Thank you for sharing, and for one of the warmest meeting i’ve ever had. Hugs.

    Brian D. Shelton August 12, 2010 at 12:15 pm


    Thank you for allowing me to be part of this, to be one small voice among the many shouting a message that needs to be heard more in this world… LOVE.

    And, tell Tanner that another wish is about to come true! (So excited!)
    .-= Brian D. Shelton´s last blog ..briandshelton- RT @scottmckain- Did @OfficeDepots commercial about helping a small-biz owner steal from a small-biz owner You decide! http-ezcom-odyr =-.

    Chrissy August 12, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Oh, that is such a beautiful story. I selfishly want to hear more about those beautiful people – in full novel-like detail. YOU are a beautiful woman, wife, mother, aunt, sister, writer, human. Sending SO many blessings and love your way. xoxoxoxcoxoxoxoxooxoxoxooxo
    .-= Chrissy´s last blog ..Adam’s thoughts =-.

    Catherine August 12, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    @Chrissy, I so want to be able to do that, tell the whole story, all the stories. A blog feels so limiting in times like these :)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..We Are The World =-.

    Chrissy August 12, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    @Catherine, I would totally forgive you if you shut down the blog for a while to just write it all down in memoir/novel form. I’d love to, in the words of a friend of mine, “hold these stories in my hands.”

    You have a powerful gift, and hopefully I’m not being presumptuous, but if some of these other bloggers can get books published? YOU should, too. Your voice is more global.
    .-= Chrissy´s last blog ..Adam’s thoughts =-.

    Connie August 12, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    The prayer circle story just took my breath away. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Alexandria August 12, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Alison’s articulate response says it all. I’m happy to have been a small part of this, and even happier that there is so much more good than bad in our world.

    Sara August 12, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing-the joy the tear the fear the anger the love and the faith. Thank you for being open and honest, thank you for letting us unite on this for Tanner and thank you for letting us being part of your life.

    JackiYo August 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I cried along with you in the post. You have an amazing way on conveying what you’re feeling through your words. Thank you for that.

    I when I walking the streets of Kitchener in my tutu, I knew I wasn’t alone. I had a virtual tutu army with me – and that’s pretty freakin’ cool.

    And yes, it would be great to get an update on the status of Tanner’s wishes to see where else we can help.
    .-= JackiYo´s last blog ..New discoveries =-.

    JackiYo August 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I hate it when I make errors in comments and posts and crap. Bah.
    .-= JackiYo´s last blog ..New discoveries =-.

    Catherine August 12, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    @JackiYo, don’t even get me started. It’s why I try to stay off the Internet when I’m delirious.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..We Are The World =-.

    Kathleen August 12, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Well written friend. You made me cry at the elevator too. Thank you for your candid style, it’s quite powerful.
    .-= Kathleen´s last blog ..Stella &amp Dot Giveaway Winner =-.

    Kate August 12, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Seeing people come together for something like this restores hope in so many ways. Beautiful.

    liz August 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Your family’s adventures last week made me love people even more than I did.

    Karen (miscmum) August 12, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    The Tutus for Tanner run came down so far as Australia :)


    (Link to the blog post)

    So, so moved by everyone’s efforts. Amazing. Love. LOVE. Inspiring.
    .-= Karen (miscmum)´s last blog ..Change of Perspective =-.

    MFA Mama August 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Hell yes. It was amazing just to be a part of something like this!

    Jurgen Nation August 12, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    I wish I could have been there. And this: “We did change the world, a little bit, last week. You did, all of you with your beautiful, powerful voices, your good hearts and your prayers.” Those of us who had to stay home for one reason or another were still sending love, support and hugs. This community is amazing.

    Leahpeah August 12, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    You are a woman of love and grace and backbone. xoxo

    Catherine August 12, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    @Leahpeah, xoxoxooxoxo.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..We Are The World =-.

    Lynn August 12, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Amazing, beautiful,heartfelt, soul grabbing…just a few words that come to me after reading your post. Tanner is a very lucky dude for having you as his aunt. God bless Tanner and you Catherine.

    Love, love, love!!!

    Bon August 12, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    this was a beautiful, moving piece of writing on an experience that was beautiful and moving to participate in, even peripherally.

    and yes, to the last bit, the addendum: yes, social media doesn’t work this way for everyone. a sizable platform garners more platform, because the chances of drawing attention and action are greater. but still. your message and cause for Tanner got amplified to a pretty amazing degree, far beyond what you probably imagined possible. i’m happy you did. i’m happy – insofar as one can say this – that this should mean Tanner can die at home, or at least spend a hell of a lot longer there.
    .-= Bon´s last blog ..i’s the b’y that catches the fish =-.

    Barnmaven August 12, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    It sounds like it was an amazing, magical week. I wish I could have been there to don a tutu with everyone else.

    You have shown us all the apex of what social media is capable of being. We should all strive to use our voices in ways that are as meaningful and important; there are a world of people out there that could use advocacy such as you have been able to gather for your sister and your beautiful nephew. I hope that the fire you have lit will stay bright for a long time to come.
    .-= Barnmaven´s last blog ..Spiral =-.

    Bush Babe August 12, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Well I have circled around your story for some time now – noticing Tanis wearning a tutu (and wondering why) and then seeing Ree’s photo of you on her blog about her tv appearance (and semi-consciously wondering why).

    This twitter/blogging/facebook thing IS powerful, but only by people who can REALLY use words well, and harness their thoughts with purpose. You do both. I love your writing. And love your courage. Hugs to your nephew. (I shall now read on and educate myself about your Tanner.)
    .-= Bush Babe´s last blog ..I need your votes here =-.

    palinode August 12, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    So. Well. Said.

    ThePeachy1 August 12, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Thank you so much for allowing us into such a personal matter, sharing your lives and your story. I think Tanners story makes us each hug our own children a bit tighter, and want to help. You guys are warriors, warriors in Tutus.

    To Think Is To Create August 12, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I love that you shared this story, love that you let their desire to pray for you sink into your heart. Love that you let yourself be loved on, in addition to all the other LOVE that was poured out, and to me that is the theme of all of the little stories surrounding Tanner that you’ve shared, others have shared, and so on.

    So much love.


    karengreeners August 12, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I was amazed by so, so many things at BlogHer. Power and love, indeed.

    p.s. I think we have next year’s flashmob song.

    Christy aka @Imfreckles August 12, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    I am always amazed by this community of friends, strangers, professionals, Moms, Dads, brothers, sisters, children…you name it, it is here in this amazingly loving, supportive online community. The power of the people is amazing…at the end of the day the glow from the love of this community warms my heart(corny but true. Sometimes it even brings a tear to my eye)

    Thank you for sharing with us and allowing us all to join your journey with Tanner and your family.
    .-= Christy aka @Imfreckles´s last blog ..Play Date Police =-.

    Lynn @ Walking With Scissors August 13, 2010 at 1:38 am

    And now I need to take a breath. You never cease to amaze me, Catherine. Lovely.
    .-= Lynn @ Walking With Scissors´s last blog ..Hey Canadians!! =-.

    Julia Roberts August 13, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Such a beautiful example of the power of how families and friends rally around someone who needs support. It’s not so much that others don’t get the media attention at all, because these stories are all around us. Family and friends supporting those of us in the trenches of raising kids with special needs are an example of the power of love.

    Without the support of my sisters especially, and other family and friends we might have surely fallen into a deep hole of despair. They’ve carried us when we didn’t have enough faith that it would work out for ourselves.

    Sister relationships can be complicated but when you break it down to one sister needing help, you are a example of the one truth; sisters need each other. Some of us (me) are on the receiving end quite frequently of the sister love pact.

    Nanna August 13, 2010 at 9:02 am

    You inspire me.
    .-= Nanna´s last blog ..Jay’s Birthday =-.

    Fairly Odd Mother August 13, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Doing that 5K, especially running by Tanner, saying “hey Tanner!” and seeing his big smile that lit up his entire face (I could see all this b/c I run v-e-r-y slowly), was the highlight of my weekend. I wish I could bottle up the feeling of love and commitment and support I felt from all those tutu-wearing nuts in Central Park.

    Catherine, you did good. So, so much good.
    .-= Fairly Odd Mother´s last blog ..Get ready- Im a UbiChamp =-.

    bea August 13, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Like you, I have intellectual problems with the idea of intercessory prayer – how it works, why it’s necessary, what it means for the prayers that don’t get answered, etc.

    And yet – there is nothing more inexplicably generous and moving than being included in someone’s prayers.
    .-= bea´s last blog ..Good Writer- Bad Person =-.

    Her Bad Mother August 15, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    It’s extraordinary, the love that you feel. There just aren’t words. I’m still reflecting on this.

    Muskrat August 13, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    And the blogosphere smiled.

    Emily August 13, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I’m so thrilled that Little Miss & I were able to don our tutus and help spread the word. You are doing an awesome thing – hang in there!
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..BlogHer- the Good- the Bad &amp the Baby – Part 1 =-.

    Her Bad Mother August 15, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    you guys were so adorable that my uterus burst. swelled, at least. (can that happen?)

    anyway, yeah. you were awesome.

    verybadcat August 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    any medium has its faults. so yes, stories go unheard. but at what level? certainly, anyone in the blogosphere that takes the time and care to hear others and support them receives some support in return….

    it seems to me that the danger here is in the comparison. your stories are heard further and wider than mine. so if i were to compare my support, my “following” to yours, i might feel bitter or slighted or rejected.

    so instead, i ask myself if i get what i need from sharing my stories.

    the answer to that is a resounding YES.

    and the sad truth is, although suffering is not relative- because my biggest problem and deepest hurt are still *my* *biggest* problem and *deepest* hurt- the characters in your story have bigger and deeper needs than mine.

    we can’t let the narcissism that often drives our urge to share override the simple understanding that there is only so much *attention*, and it flows to the biggest, deepest need.

    love, on the other hand? love just makes more love. and i love you, in that internet kinda way, and you love me, in that internet kinda way, and the discrepancy between the size of your love and my love- that comparison just cheapens all that magical awesome love.

    to the less popular bloggers, i say:

    you don’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find…

    … you get what you need.

    .-= verybadcat´s last blog ..Every Twenty Four Years =-.

    Her Bad Mother August 15, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    “Love, In That Internet Kinda Way” should be the title of a song. Or a post ;)

    Marie August 13, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    I’ve already talked to you a little about my experience, but I just wanted to say thank you again for the meaningful blogher run, in my red sparkly tutu!!!
    .-= Marie´s last blog ..How To Freeze Fruit to Last All Year =-.

    Her Bad Mother August 15, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    I saw an awesome, awesome picture of you in that tutu somewhere – will have to look for it!

    elz August 13, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Your story, your family’s story, the community rally and support is just amazing in so many ways. Amazing the burdens your family is dealing with. Amazing the quick response of the community. Amazing what people can do. It doesn’t amaze me that people are good and kind, it is as it should be.
    .-= elz´s last blog ..Friday Favorite- Shark Christmas Ornament =-.

    Sugar Jones August 14, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I’m always amazed how God shows up. The random strangers prayer circle. The women who love and share their hearts wearing tutus. The love of an aunty. God is good… all the time.
    .-= Sugar Jones´s last blog ..My BlogHer Top 10 =-.

    Heather Cook August 15, 2010 at 1:47 am

    You are awesome and so is your blog. I’m so glad that you are surrounded by love when you need it and even when you don’t realize you need it. Keep up the awesome bloggy work!

    Jenny August 16, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    SO awesome. :) You are totally inspiring and I love your blog.
    .-= Jenny´s last blog ..Something blue =-.

    Jack August 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    It is a big world that gets smaller all the time. Social media has the power to do a lot to help people.
    .-= Jack´s last blog ..For the Love of the Game and Learning How To Get Along =-.

    mosey August 17, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I first heard about Tanner’s story at BHJ, and donated without even visiting you here and knowing the full story. It was amazing to see you all floating down the street in your tulle. My first Blogher and I get to see the power of the blogging community in full force.

    Blessings to you, Tanner, and the rest of the family.
    .-= mosey´s last blog ..putting on my shoes =-.

    Her Bad Mother August 17, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    floating, lumbering… either/or ;)

    Cityville hacks August 30, 2010 at 8:38 am

    LOL. I suggest you study “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins…….

    S. Poole August 31, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Wow, just great, thanks.

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