I HAVE NOTHING but praise for Dan Steinberg, a young man so upset by the murder of Police Officer Robert Wilson that he launched a campaign on GoFundMe.com to raise $10,000 for Wilson's family.
But Steinberg didn't set his sights high enough.
Philly's population is 1.5 million. What if each one of us donated just $1 to the campaign? Imagine the opportunities that could open up for Wilson's now-fatherless boys, ages 10 and 1.
Tuition for college? Check.
Chance to see the world beyond Philly, through African safaris, exploration of ancient ruins, hikes along the Appalachian Trail or the Great Wall of China? Check.
Gear for any sport that excites them, instruments for whatever musical training touches their hearts? Check.
The ability, even, to establish their own small charity, to make a difference in others' lives the way that caring donors will have made in theirs? Check.
Of course, none of this would soften the crushing loss of their hero dad. Wilson's devotion to his kids was the kind that all children need and deserve if they are to grow up whole.
And none of this would replace what only he gave them: a hardworking man who was present, who put their well-being on a pedestal, whose last act as a parent was to stop into a game store to buy his eldest son a birthday gift worthy of the child's terrific performance in school.
And whose final lesson to all of us was to reflexively put duty before self, especially if you've sworn an oath to do so.
It's wrenching that Wilson is gone. For his family, yes, but also for a city that has come to know him through the shared memories of others. We're mourning a man we never knew. It hurts in the strangest way.
No wonder Dan Steinberg's GoFundMe campaign blew past its $10,000 goal yesterday (as of this writing, the fund stands at more than $13,000). Donating to the fund lets us feel powerful when we're powerless to do the one thing we wish we could - roll back time to last Thursday and stop the bullets that killed a good man.
"What an incredible response," says Steinberg, co-owner of Hyaline Creative, a Web- and app-development company. His clients include the Philadelphia Police Department, whose website and lobby displays are built and maintained by Hyaline.
"More important to me than the total amount of money is that over 240 people donated," Steinberg says. "This is an easy way for people to show that they care."
Money raised through the GoFundMe campaign (which is officially endorsed by the Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police) will be deposited directly into an account established at the Police and Fire Federal Credit Union to benefit Wilson's family.
Steinberg launched the campaign after hearing that Wilson had planned to take his son to Disney World. He figured $10,000 would cover the cost and then some. Now that the goal has been surpassed, he hopes people will continue to donate.
"There are some really amazing men and women out there doing a fantastic job and putting their lives on the line every day," he says. "If a few thousand people took a few minutes out of their day to donate, even just $5, it would be such a show of goodwill to every officer."
Even better would be if 1.5 million Philadelphians each donated a single dollar to the fund. I've already donated $50, so 49 of you are off the hook. But c'mon, everyone, wouldn't it be something to see that tally soar and know you were part of it?
Afterward, you could stop by St. Matthew's Catholic Church at Cottman Avenue and Battersby Street, in Mayfair, tomorrow at 7 p.m. The church is hosting a multidenominational prayer service in support of Philadelphia's men and women in blue.
St. Matt's assistant pastor, the Rev. Steven Marinucci, says that the service was planned long before Officer Wilson's death but that he would be specially remembered in the prayers of intercession.
"We want to show our gratitude for the officers' service to the Mayfair community," says Marinucci, although any officer is invited to attend and all Philadelphians are welcome. Afterward, cookies and iced tea will be served during a meet-and-greet, when the public can thank a few of those who keep 1.5 million of us safe every day.
None of these gestures of love and condolence will return Wilson to his sons. Of course they won't.
But I have to believe they will help lessen the hardship that his murder has caused his loved ones - including the littlest ones, whom he loved best.
On Twitter: @RonniePhilly