Each September 20th, I like to take a moment to remember my dear friend Chris McBride, who passed away on this day in 2005. The circumstances of his death are tragic; he died as a result of an unprovoked attack while he sat quietly reading a newspaper. I do the best I can, however, to remember the amazing person Chris was when he was living, and to find some small way to honor his life by making a donation to a non-profit organization in his memory.
(TL;DR: Chris was amazing. We were lucky to know him and miss him dearly. To honor his memory, please consider joining us by making a donation to BRIDGEdotMN to help teens in need access technology and gain digital literacy skills, giving them a solid foundation for lifelong success.)
I met Chris while studying in Oxford in 2001/2002, shortly after I’d decided it was impossible to make friends as an American in England. I was homesick and lonely and felt extremely out of place. I had my classmates and roommates, of course, but as an extreme extrovert, I wanted to branch out a little from the insular community of fellow Shimerians. I’d met some people while doing some volunteer work and attending events, but they were more like acquaintances and I felt very isolated.
Chris was my first true friend in Oxford. I’d met him when he was working as a bartender. I was that weird chick who came in asking for one of the highest-proof beers in the UK (which I got to try in Scotland), and when they didn’t have it, settled for a cup of tea instead. Despite my eccentricity, Chris never treated me like I was crazy. He had a warmth about him that instantly made me feel comfortable in a strange new town with grey clouds and roundabouts and mushy peas and overly manicured gardens surrounded by fences.
I was super stoked when I’d run into Chris at various events around town. It makes sense that he’d be at every protest. He was a relentless advocate for change, always working to help others. Although he was introverted, he was always quick to strike up a conversation. Chris was so easy to engage with in deep discussion about the best ways to create social change and make an impact. He was extremely open-minded and always willing to entertain an alternative perspective, even if he didn’t agree. (I was a bit of an extremist at the time, and he was far more moderate.)
I’ll have to admit that I had a lack of focus while I was in college. Typically I’d lose interest in whichever guy I was dating that month fairly quickly, but Chris was an exception. I was really lucky to know him and realized it instantly. He was a joy to spend time with and cherished by those around him for his kindness and thoughtfulness. As I’ve touched upon, of course his compassion extended to strangers in need. He lived his entire life in the spirit of selfless service. Whether he was working on the Make Poverty History campaign, fighting tuition hikes or writing letters in support of human rights, Chris was constantly putting himself aside to help others.
Aside from his desire to change the world and strike up conversations with anyone who would listen, he was also incredibly thoughtful and really went out of his way to help me feel more at home in Oxford. For example, he’d patiently explain subtle nuances in British expressions I’d tried to incorporate, letting me know the way I came across in certain instances (which was different than how I’d intended to). I always appreciated his candor as he explained to me the way that both Americans and Jewish people were perceived (I had a double whammy), giving me just a little more knowledge of what may have been going through people’s minds in social situations I’d find myself in. Non-verbal communication has never been my strong suit, and being in a different country, I needed all the help I could get.
The last time I saw Chris was in the summer of 2002, right after the May Day protests in London. We’d email from time to time after that. One day his sweet face crossed my mind and I did a quick Google search to find out what he was up to. I was pretty crushed when I found out that he’d been killed. A pacifist, Chris did not retaliate when he was attacked without provocation, as he sat quietly reading a newspaper and drinking a pint in a Liverpool pub. I read that Chris died in hospital of head injuries nine days after the incident.
Even after his death, Chris was still selflessly serving others. He was an organ donor, and his liver saved a 21-year-old man and a 10-month-old girl. His kidneys were also donated to two people.
Chris was only 25 years old when he died. He was so smart and so full of hope and dreams, which were tragically cut short. To honor his memory, Chris’ friends would run the Liverpool 10K for charity in the fall of each year, raising donations for some great non-profit organizations: Amnesty International, ActionAid, Support After Murder and Manslaugher (Merseyside), and The British Red Cross Society.
Last year, I ran an online fundraiser for Children of the Night, a charity supporting child victims of human trafficking. With your help, we raised $1600 in Chris’ memory. I also made a lot of mistakes, and the fundraiser was also mentally and emotionally taxing, for reasons I delve into in a post on online fundraising tips. I am very grateful to the dozens of people who either donated monetarily or contributed gifts for donors.
I always joke that I wouldn’t have graduated college if it wasn’t for Chris, but it really is true. My schedule included classes with tutors all around town, and I’d take the buses or walk or try to ride my creaky bicycle. I was never at Plater College’s tiny computer lab, which we were permitted to use. It closed even earlier than the cafes with internet access around town. And the cafes with internet access had high fees. I’d lost my job at a cafe as quickly as I got it; I’d arrived 15 minutes late one day while miscalculating the length of my bicycle commute, and after struggling counting change since I was working with a currency I was unfamiliar with. There was no work study in Oxford, and paying by the hour to use a computer was out of the question. Luckily, Chris would let me use his computer to finish my thesis in the evenings while he’d be out meeting friends for drinks. I’d type away into the wee morning hours and managed to finish multiple rewrites and graduate as scheduled.
I’m well aware that it is a position of privilege to be able to study abroad in Oxford and complain about not wanting to pay to use a computer lab, or have to share computers in a lab but deciding not to because the hours were unsuitable. I’m also aware of my extreme privilege in that I can pick up a new laptop or phone whenever I decide I’d like an upgrade. As a former middle school teacher in a low-income community (Tucson’s South Side), I know that many children don’t even have internet access at home, and that technology can be a game changer.
Instead of running a fundraiser this year, I just wanted to bring some awareness to BRIDGEdotMN, which is where I’ll be making my donation this year. BRIDGEdotMN equips young people with the resources to increase their digital literacy skills. For more information, or to donate, check out the link below.
Whether you knew Chris or just know of him, I hope you’ll consider investing in a local student’s future by helping BRIDGEdotMN provide them with a computer, mobile broadband and technical training at the link below.