We at StarTrek.com recently came across an inspiring convention experience that Wil Wheaton shared on his Facebook page, about a longtime fan determined to *walk* to meet him -- and who did exactly that, bringing tears to Wheaton’s eyes. We asked Wheaton if we could please reprint the story and he graciously obliged. We’re pretty sure the story will bring tears to your eyes, too.
Appearing as a guest at a big convention like MegaCon is a lot of fun, but it’s also exhausting. People always ask me if my arm or hand or wrist is tired near the end of a long day of signing, and I always tell them the truth: my body never gets tired; it’s my brain that is exhausted. Signing is so much more than, well, signing. It’s listening and engaging and sharing moments and meeting hundreds of people in a relatively short amount of time, doing my best to not rush people while understanding that the person in front of me and the person still waiting behind them may have been in that line for over an hour. It’s drawing out shy kids who are excited to meet me, but don’t know what to say. It’s handling people who can be a little strange — if harmless — who may not know when it’s really time for them to move on. It’s telling someone that I’m sorry, but I can’t sign that thing, or I can’t pose for that picture, or I’m really not going to go have beers with you because I don’t know you at all even though you think you know me.
I suppose I could make it less mentally taxing if I just sat there and didn’t make an effort to engage people or treat them like human beings (and there are some folks who do exactly that), but that’s not how I roll, and I will stop attending conventions before I become That Guy. That Guy has no perspective, no humility, no gratitude, and while I’ve met him a few times (there are a few people who act like fans at conventions are simply meatbags attached to wallets) I won’t ever be him.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because I was a fan at conventions long before I was a special guest, I know what it’s like to be on that side of the table, and it’s important to me to treat people the way I want to be treated. It’s also wonderful, because I get to meet remarkable and inspiring people, and share in the mutual joy we have for Doctor Who, Tabletop gaming, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Star Trek, beer, hockey, and silly Internet memes.
This weekend, I met dozens of people who told me that they were scientists, engineers, doctors, or programmers because they were inspired by Wesley Crusher. I met tons of women and a few men who told me that I was their first teenage crush. I met a lot of people, men and women, my age and younger, who thanked me for speaking out about depression and anxiety. I held a young woman’s hands while she cried because her anxiety was so intense and scary, and I promised her that she would be okay. I was moved by her bravery, and inspired by her courage. I met some families who were all geeking out about different things at the convention, from Star Trek to My Little Pony to LEGO to Star Wars, and happily sharing in each other’s joy. I was honored to be part of all of these experiences, and grateful to have them.
But there is one meeting that stands out, that moved me so much, I’ve been struggling to find the right words to recount it. On Saturday, a young woman walked up to my table with her husband and her two children. She handed me a typed letter and told me that she knew she wouldn’t be able to get through what she wanted to say to me, and would I please read it.
I unfolded it, and read her story. When she was a young girl, she had a serious complication due to her Lupus, and her doctors told her that she would never walk again. She had a photo of me, though, that she took with her to physical therapy every day, and the therapists would hold it up for her and encourage her to walk toward it — toward me — while she recovered. She made a promise to herself, she said, that she would walk again some day, and if I was ever in her town, she would walk up to meet me. At the end of her letter, she thanked me for being there, so she could *walk* to meet me.
I looked up at her through tears, and she looked back at me through her own. I stood up, walked around my table, and put about fifteen feet between us. I held my arms open, and asked her to walk over to me. She began to cry, and slowly, confidently closed the distance between us. I embraced her, and we stood there for a minute, surrounded by thousands of people who had no idea what was going on, and cried together.
“I’m so proud of you,” I said, quietly, “and I am so honored.”
We wiped the tears away, and I sat back down to sign a photo for her. I looked at her young children. “Your mom is remarkable,” I said, “and I know you don’t get it, because she’s, like your mom? But you have to trust me: she is.”
The kids nodded, and I could tell that they were a little freaked out by the emotion of the thing, even if they didn’t understand it. They looked at their father, who said, “Mommy’s okay. Mommy’s okay.” That made me tear up again. Mommy was okay, and she is a remarkable woman who defied the odds and her doctors, and *walked* up to meet me. I’m still overwhelmed when I think about what that means, and how I was part of it.