I've always donated time to good causes, because I believe that stories and words can open minds and make an impact, especially if you find a way to wake people up and surprise them with what you have to say.
Over an eight-year period, I produced a number of projects to educate men about violence against women. The first was a 16-page booklet--"It's Time For Guys To Put An End To This"--that was widely distributed in the U.S. and Canada.
Pretty edgy for its day: no formal organization would have approved it. But that's what I felt was needed to get young, college-age guys' attention. Rochester's Dan Hoh designed it pro bono. My wife and I paid for the first printing. And it just took off from there.
This booklet, which was dedicated to my wife and son, was mentioned in Jackson Katz' 2006 book Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and and How All Men Can Help:
"Shaw, whose day job is in marketing and corporate communications, wanted to reach average guys with a piece written in 'guy language' for men who would likely never read a book about gender violence. The brochure, tens of thousands of which have been distributed across the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere, is cleverly written and beautifully illustrated, and contains such features as the 'Mancipation Proclamation:'
"'Henceforth guys are no longer under any gender-oriented, testosterone-derived, penis-related or penis-associated obligation to hurt, harass, or otherwise mess up (or mess with) the lives of female employees, coworkers, students, family members, friends, neighbors, or other female personages who may or may not be personally known to the party of the first part. When all people of the male persuasion get the message, it will spare everyone a whole lot of grief. Plus it will save the country about a gazillion dollars a year.'"
Jackson Katz is one of the world's leading experts on gender violence and prevention. You can find out more about his books, films and other efforts to make a difference at jacksonkatz.com.
Variations on a theme
Dan Hoh and I produced a second piece--Rated XX--about violence against women and girls around the world. The talented, Rochester-based artist Kurt Ketchum donated a poster-sized illustration that was a major attraction.
Stand-up Guys was a collaboration with Cornell's ILR School that featured stories about courageous men who were making an effort to fight sexism, misogyny and gender violence. Forest McMullin provided the great photography. Design by Christine Porter.
An article of mine--How Two Aspiring Pornographers Turned Me Into The Ultimate F Word--was published in the 2008 anthology men speak out.
I also wrote several columns for a great organization called Dads and Daughters headed up by Joe Kelly, author of the best-selling book, Dads and Daughters: How To Inspire, Support and Understand Your Daughter.
Sadly, the organization is no longer around. But Joe Kelly is still out there doing great things. You can find out more at joekelly.org.
For many years, I've been the official storyteller for The House of Mercy, a shelter and advocacy and services center for extremely poor people in Rochester, N.Y. The House, under the leadership of a courageous and tireless nun, Sister Grace Miller, does amazing work in a community with one of the highest rates for child poverty and extreme poverty in the country.
Sister Grace's "heroic" efforts were recognized during the global English broadcast of the canonization of Mother Teresa on Vatican Radio in September, 2016.
My life-calculus equation
Years ago, I realized I could spend two years writing a novel that maybe 100 people would read. Or I could use that time to tell true stories about The House's incredible efforts to help people...gritty, emotional stories that would, hopefully, bring in donations, recruit volunteers and supporters, and spread the word about the most beautiful House in town.
With help from designers Greg Kauffman and Diane Fitzgerald-Harris, I launched a modest, black-and-white newsletter and managed it for most of a decade.
It was the right decision. Though it's probably time for me to tackle that novel now.