The Beginning Of Given To Live...why we do what we do.
March 16, 2017
I was sat on a bus during the summer of 2013 when Pearl Jam's Alive came on. I'd heard Alive hundreds, if not thousands of times but this time was different and I started to cry. Deeply, openly on a bus in the Swedish countryside. I cried with wonder at being alive.
It was almost seven years since I'd overdosed and if I'd been alone I wouldn't have made it. That was the back end of a three year relapse that led to homelessness, some time sleeping rough, overdoses and utter hopelessness. That October, 2006, I stopped using and drinking. Seven years later I was sat on a bus with tears streaming down my face in wonder and I knew I wanted to honour my journey, my life, me. But how?
The answer came very quickly. My favourite band were touring in November in the US, one of the shows was on my 46th birthday. Go! Go, Tom, and do your favourite thing. Be with friends at Pearl Jam shows. So I booked flights, found tickets, hooked up with other fans who were doing a road trip and on 19th November, in Phoenix, I started a five show run that ended in Oakland on my birthday. 179 songs and 78 unique Pearl Jam songs later (we like our stats in the PJ community), an incident in Oakland where somebody needed help, feeling good about myself because I'd given myself a great gift and the idea for Given To Live started to form.
I realised how incredibly lucky I was to be in a position to give myself such a gift. That I had a job that paid me enough to be free to make that decision. That physically and mentally I was mostly ok.
It would have been easy to tell myself that I work hard so I can do what I like with the money but there was a realisation it is pure chance I am me. I could have been born in a war torn country, into poverty, into famine. I could have suffered brain damage from all the alcohol and drug abuse. I could be dead.
So I thought I wanted to give what I gave to myself to others. To others that may need help, support, encouragement. That deserve their day in the sun, their show. And that what we want to create is something beautiful that honours and celebrates the person we take to a show, that it's their day, their moment.
I went to my first gig when I was 15 with a friend from school. I jumped on the tube and went to the Hammersmith Odeon. I've walked to shows up the road, jumped on trains and planes. It's not that simple for everyone and that's one of the reasons for GTL, to make things simple. If you're in a wheelchair just getting on a train can be a huge deal, if you have mental health issues it can be enormous. So GTL supports, assists, enables things to be easier, to be possible.
That's why we exist. To make gigs possible for those who need help getting there, to create something beautiful, to give someone their day in the sun.
For the last year the Foo Fam, a Facebook group with members from all four corners of the globe, has been supporting Given To Live.