// Photo by Richie Downs
Expectation: how I’ve learned to hate the word. My own expectation has once again proved to be an unwanted visitor.
I was flying home one night from our nation’s capital, looking out the window, reflecting on an incredible experience. As I peered at the thousands of little lights twinkling in the darkness, I couldn’t help but feel small and insignificant. I wanted to do something big, something impactful.
Why did I have this urgent need to do something greater than myself? The night before I had been on cloud nine of my own free will chatting backstage with an icon. Little old me from Flint, Michigan, was granted quality time with Cher. My newsman hat was back home, and I was there as a fan and an ambassador of my hometown.
I walked into this little room and stopped to say hello to one of her staff members. Her assistant Jen and I had spoken to each other on the phone and via text a lot leading up to this night of her show. I saw this thin figure with long black hair and a sparkly jacket out of the corner of my eye. My heart raced and my mouth dried up a little. I quickly realized that figure was Cher!
I was granted access to one of the world’s biggest celebrities simply because I wanted to thank her for her generous donation to my city. Far more important than the tens of thousands of bottles of water she donated was how she used her platform to bring attention to the manmade crisis.
Cher never stopped talking about the crisis and even came to Flint on Halloween 2016. She toured a water distribution center and told me then that she wanted to see the problem in person. She said the crisis was heartbreaking but showed the spirit of Flint’s people.
Now cut to me backstage with the glitz and glamour we are accustomed to seeing. Her eyelids looked like they weighed 5 pounds each as glitter emerged from long, thick lashes. She greeted me like a good friend who had popped in for a visit. She asked me how Mayor Karen Weaver was doing. I complimented Cher’s spectacular performance.
I came wearing a custom-made shirt. The shirt featured a cartoon of the singer, inside a heart with the word Flint in black, sparkly lettering above it. I’d made my fiancé a shirt just like it. I’d thought, If I don’t get to talk to her at least she will see our shirts in the crowd and know that gratitude from Flint is alive and well in the audience.
Cher’s best friend, Pauly, came flying through the door with the biggest smile on her face. Pauly asked us to pose for a picture. She then said to Cher, “Don’t you love these shirts? They are so cool!”
A photographer asked us all to get together and pose for photos. Then, her manager gestured for us to make our way toward the exit of the small room. It was then that I remembered I’d brought a picture from our previous interview. I wanted her to sign it. She said, “It’s David, right?” I think my eyes lit up the room. Holy cow! Cher remembered my name!
“Her eyelids looked like they weighed 5 pounds each as glitter emerged from long, thick lashes.”
She signed the picture, “To David, You’re so great! Love, Cher.” Immediately after, my brother and my fiancé asked her to sign their shirts. I thought, I’ll ask her to sign mine too! She signed it in silver metallic pen. I thanked her and we were escorted out of the room.
We got back to my brother’s place, and carefully, we packed our shirts to preserve them. I imagined how I would frame mine with the picture of us next to her.
Then, that moment in the darkness 30,000 feet in the air happened. Suddenly, an idea shined brighter in my mind than anything below. I wanted to take my beloved shirt and use it to raise money for the very cause that brought Cher and me together.
I’ve done several stories and helped many causes in Flint, but this was a chance to do something from the heart. I couldn’t wait to tell the Community Foundation of Flint how I wanted to raise money for Flint children impacted by the crisis. They loved my idea.
I created an online auction with 100% of the money raised going to the fund for Flint children. I couldn’t wait to see how much money it would raise. I pictured it reaching well above $500.
A couple days went by; it wasn’t receiving much interest or action. We shared an article with our TV5 audience, and even Pauly shared it with many of Cher’s followers. Slowly, a couple of bids came in.
The auction ended days later, and my cherished shirt had raised $255 for the cause. I was devastated. Everyone around me told me that I should be proud of the amount and every little bit helps. However, I felt like a failure.
“I wanted to take my beloved shirt and use it to raise money for the very cause that brought Cher and me together.”
I painted on a happy face and delivered the check to the Community Foundation. To my surprise, they thanked me for keeping the well-being of Flint children on the forefront.
They didn’t know the heartache and disappointment I faced because I felt it wasn’t enough. I went home and posted on Facebook about my disappointment and how I’d let my expectation cloud this entire experience.
The woman in Germany who had won the auction saw that post and told me how excited she was to win the shirt and help Flint children. At the end of her message, she asked if I would allow her to double the amount she paid to help the charity. I couldn’t believe it!
Then a couple of my television viewers asked if they could donate $250 toward the cause in my name. The donation messages continued to flow to my inbox. The post about expectation was sparking the engine to drive money to the fund. When the engine stopped, $1,300 was raised.
I learned a valuable lesson from that idea born while soaring through the clouds in the middle of the night: The best way to fight expectation is to practice gratitude. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything that happened. I am sure if Cher had witnessed my self-deprecation, she would’ve quite simply slapped me across the face and said, “Snap out of it!”