When I read on Monday that my friend Ken Starks had come-up with the 12 Geeks of Christmas idea for his Reglue project, my first thought was “what a wonderful idea.”
In case you don’t know, Reglue is a nonprofit run by Starks down in Texas that refurbishes old computers, loads them up with GNU/Linux and the necessary software, then gives them to school age children who’s parents can’t afford a decent computer.
When you think about it, this not only gives kids who can’t afford it a much needed computer for their school work, it also gives them the added advantage of learning to use an operating system other than Windows or OS X while being opened-up to the possibilities of free and open source software. I can’t help but wonder how many of tomorrow’s FOSS developers are being nurtured by Starks and his Reglue project just by dint of learning their way around Linux.
On Monday, when Starks announced the 12 Geeks of Christmas campaign, he explained it this way:
“Find a truly disadvantaged family with school-aged children and place a computer in that child’s home. Take pictures of the kid(s) with their new computers and seek permission to publish their/your pictures and story in the Blog of helios. Just a general run-down of who the children are, their age and school. Maybe a bit about them and/or their families.
“We’ll ship you the computer…you simply do the delivery, setup and brief session on how to use it. I say we can ship it and of course we can, but any help in doing so would be appreciated…our funding, as always, is a bit tight.
“In remembering that every computer we place is pre-loaded with Linux is important. Finding the 12 Geeks of Christmas will probably be challenge enough, not to mention Linux Geeks…
“But among the thousands of people that read this blog…I’m betting that we can find them. Of course, we can only afford to ship computers in the US and even that will be expensive. We will try to ship laptops when available but we only have about 4 right now that are serviceable.
“And no…this doesn’t have to take place on Christmas Day…Any time that works for you is fine.”
Wowie-zowie, I thought, what a great idea. How often does a person get the opportunity to play Santa Claus to somebody who actually needs the gift? And how often does a person get to be part of a program based on nothing but compassion?
In an email, Starks explained how he came up with the program:
“The idea hit me dead in the middle of the wee hours. It sat me straight up in bed so I got up, wrote the draft and went back to bed at 2:40 AM.”
I figured by now, a full four days after the announcement, Starks would’ve already filled the twelve slots and would be putting folks on some kind of list for some future campaign, so I asked him about the current state of the project before writing this article.
“Truth is, no one has stepped forward. Lots have liked the idea but it may come down to one simple fact. When I ask others to take part in this, I get:
‘I don’t know any poor people.”
Are you kidding? You don’t know any poor people?
Maybe it’s time you met some.
You see, being good, doing the right thing and being part of a solution that’s larger than you isn’t something you do merely when it completely takes no effort on your part. What good would that be? Anything you do that’s truly worthwhile takes effort. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t need to be done, would it?
We’re always bemoaning the injustices in the world, but when given the opportunity to help one child, one time, no one seizes the opportunity because “I don’t know any poor people?”
Take my word for it — poor people won’t be that hard to find.If it’s true that you don’t know any poor people, then you absolutely need to meet some. I will assure you that your life will be enriched in the process. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if you discover your association with a financially disadvantaged family benefits you even more than them.
That’s the nature of giving when it’s done right.
I’ll guarantee that your life will be enriched more by the child or children who’ll be using the computer you give than it has been enriched by the materialistic yuppie friends with whom you share lattes after work. If nothing else, you’ll learn how fortunate you are to be in the position to help.
Again, there’s no scarcity of poor folks in our world. As Starks pointed-out in his email to me:
“They’re not that hard to find. Heck, I asked one policeman to help me identify folks that might need a computer in the home. He’s helped us place 19 computers in 2 years.”
You could ask a preacher in a church in a financially strapped neighborhood. Your local Salvation Army could connect you to a family or two; they’re always helping people get on their feet. Or visit a school in a poverty ridden neighborhood.
“According to my stats, just over 37K people have read the article. You would think someone would step forward.”
Right now I’m going to seed the pot by signing FOSS Force up for this program. Although I don’t know any families with school aged children at all, needy or not, I’m certain we’ll be able to find a family that could use the gift that Reglue is offering.
That means that all we need now is for eleven more of you to step up to the plate. Who’s next?