Rainn Wilson talks service, pancakes

Originally published in The Spectator.

Rainn Wilson is best known for his character “Dwight Schrute” on “The Office” but when he is not playing the bespectacled beet farmer, Wilson is pursuing his other passions—philanthropy and service. He is the spokesperson for Seattle non-profit the Mona Foundation, which supports grassroots educational initiatives and aiding women and girls worldwide. Recently, Wilson took 15 minutes to speak with The Spectator about the foundation, his Seattle roots and pancakes.

Frances Dinger: How did you get connected with the Mona Foundation?

Rain Wilson: When I started getting well known for “The Office,” I started getting approached by different charities.  It started getting confusing for me. […] The [Mona Foundation] serves the world but is a local grown charity in Seattle. The thing I like that they do is that they find grassroots organizations that are already working [around the world] and they raise money for these charities. There might be a school in the Andes Mountains that wants a science lab but they don’t have running water. Instead of putting in plumbing, [the Mona Foundation] will help them build a science lab. These communities know what they need. Too many charities decide what they need for them.

FD: What relationship do you see between your two lives— service and acting? Did one beget the other or are they separate things in your mind?

RW: I don’t really see a difference between them. I view my acting as a service too. I have these God-given talents where I can make people laugh and make an ass of myself and get paid handsomely for it. I also love asking the big questions. I do it all as one expression of myself. […] We have a tendency to compartmentalize our culture. Our work is separate from our spiritual life is separate from our home life [etc]. It’s all these little boxes.

FD: To take a question from your website, SoulPancake, when do you come alive?

RW: When emceeing a charity event in my hometown with a couple of awesome rock bands. To do comedy in my hometown, to hear music from some of my favorite musicians—what could be better than that? It’s to let Seattle know about the Mona Foundation. We want to raise some money and raise some awareness. It feels like a great Pacific Northwest thing to do. It’ll be a bunch of nerds in a cool little theatre.

FD: What’s next for you in your service?

RW: My wife and I support a school in Haiti. We went down right before the earthquake. […] We’re going back down in the spring. We want to see the money we’ve raised and how it’s being spent, examine the new round of needs.

Wilson will be speaking at the Mona Foundation’s event “Why do I care about service and why should you?” at the Paramount Theatre Saturday, Oct. 23. Wilson’s book “SoulPancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions” will be released in paperback Oct. 26.

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