Some people in this world make insane amounts of money, but billionaire industrialist and Gotham City playboy Bruce Wayne takes personal income to unimaginable levels of insane. Wayne is filthy rich, to be sure, but there is a side of Mr. Wayne and his globally-dominant Wayne Industries that many people do not see: The Wayne Foundation, his generous philanthropy organization. I got to tour the Phoenix offices of Wayne Industries this week, and I am going to leak a few very interesting secrets about the legendary Bruce Wayne (SPOLIER: Bruce Wayne is merely a secret identity for a well-known superhero).
Harrison’s friend, Nadia, was recently invited to visit the offices of Wayne Industries in celebration of her successful battle against Leukemia. We came as her guests. During our tour of Mr. Wayne’s study, Nadia accidentally bumped into a copper bust of Shakespeare and revealed a secret button hidden under the head of the famed playwright. Being the curious child she is, she pushed the button and a bookshelf on the wall mysteriously slid open to reveal a secret passage.
Ever since I was a kid I have known that, when a hidden bookshelf opens to reveal a secret passage, you must walk through it to investigate. Well we did. The classic, victorian-style walls of Wayne’s study turned to sleek, metal walls as we walked up the stairs at the end of the secret passage. At the top of the stairs, we came to two fireman poles. Above the poles was a sign that read (get ready to be blown away) “Access to the BATCAVE via the batpoles”. Batman’s secret lair is behind a bookshelf at Wayne Industries? I think I just blew Batman’s identity wide open.
After Harrison and I slid down the batpoles, we were standing in a dark cave decked out with high-tech computers, a small nuclear reactor, and various state-of-the-art crime-fighting tools. Nadia flipped the reactor switch and the Batcave rumbled to life. As the lights powered up, they revealed the legendary Batmobile at the far end of the cave. That’s right, the Batmobile. Now there can be no doubt about Batman’s real identity.
Gotham City Motors in Phoenix, Arizona is the brainchild of Mr. Charles Keller, a former Apple Computers “whiz-kid” who put his hard-earned money to good work, helping families with sick kids by offering them a fun escape from their fight against disease. Mr. Keller has turned part of an industrial park near Sky Harbor airport into Batman’s top-secret and elusive Batcave. Kids who are battling serious diseases get the royal treatment from Bruce Wayne’s staff (Mr. Wayne always seems to be away on “vacation”).
I love generosity, and Mr. Keller seems to love it too. In addition to spending a lot of money to recreate Bruce Wayne’s study and the Batcave, Mr. Keller has gone all-out to have an authentic classic 1960’s Batmobile. But simply having a Batmobile isn’t terribly generous in itself. One of the things I was most impressed with was that Mr. Keller didn’t just use his Batmobile as a prop for the Batcave, he actually pulls it out and allows kids to go for a ride. What’s more, he doesn’t insist that only he gets to be behind the wheel, he lets his adult guests drive their own kids around the complex. That takes trust — and it makes a world of difference in creating a memorable experience.
The thing I liked best, however, is how Mr. Keller ends the tour. Instead of just giving sick kids the joy of visiting the Batcave and then sending them on their way, he talks about how generosity is something that should be shared. A “Pay it Forward” sort of speech. Each child who is hosted on the tour, gets to end the tour with the opportunity of donating $1,000 to the charity of his/her choice. Sure, the donation comes from Keller’s pocket, but he presents it in such a way that it comes from the child. His goal is to remind kids that giving should be a key part of getting. I love that.
Many young people today are taught that wealthy people are to be despised and protested against, just because they have more than others. But having more is not wrong, in fact it is a chance to give back in ways that others could never give. And you don’t have to be rich to be generous (I would guess that the volunteers who were there that night are not extremely wealthy). If we could all look for ways to be generous at our own level of capability, then the world would be a much more caring place.