Saturday, December 29, 2012

Spirited giving

Hot on the heels of Christmas in America comes the barrage of frenzied last minute appeals by mail and email from any charity you've ever given to, theater you've subscribed to, museum you became a member of, hospital you've had an appointment at and dear friend who's dedicating their life to a worthy mission. There's a tax break for charitable contributions here and we can benefit from that until the last day of the year. Inducements come in the form of heartbreaking stories of need and suffering to the gift of a free stamp.

My impulse has always been to give stuff away rather than to sell it. Even in the penniless hippie days things passed easily through my fingers. Then in our early 20s David and I ambled innocently into the evangelical, charismatic kind of churches that teach that tithing 10% of your net income is just the law-given baseline starting point, complete with the curse of Malachi if you "rob God" (yes, really!) According to that teaching you don't officially start giving anything until you've fulfilled your tithe obligation.  Our psychological waters were seriously muddied on the subject for many years as a result.

I'm drawn to movements now that encourage you to give freely and annonymously. I like the lightheartedness of leaving books for strangers to find.... and the free mini libraries cropping up all over the world in mailbox sized replicas of a one roomed schoolhouse on a "take one, leave one" basis .....

I belong to a lovely group of enthusiastic givers on Facebook called Art Abandonment. The premise is much like book crossing but with art work. You leave something you've made in a public place. It has a label informing the recipient what the group is about and encouraging them to email the facilitator, then their response is posted on the group page. It's just for fun, hopefully spreading a little happiness here and there.

It's hard to give something away for free, people are wary. Even I balked slightly at finding this wheatgrass in Central Park in the summer. David was all for taking it but we were staying in a hotel and about to go home on the train. It didn't seem at all practical to me so we left it for someone else. But more than that..... I experienced that uneasy, suspicious feeling that maybe it was a set up of some kind. Maybe we were being secretly filmed and our reactions would show up on UTube. But no, I looked it up later and sure enough it's another nice under-groundswell group,

On Christmas Eve we had tickets for a Broadway show that we were unable to get to, another of my mess-ups.  We didn't like to think of them being wasted so we approached a few people in the park, trying to give them away. Of course this is hopeless! Everyone's suspicious, thinking there must be a catch or that you're just another hustler, no matter how early on in the conversation you insert the words "free" and "give away".  I would probably react exactly the same. In the end we resorted to leaving them on a park bench in the hope that just the right people would come along and be curious and trusting enough to pick them up.

                                                    I don't suppose we'll ever know!


  1. Given All The Cutbacks in Britain at the moment,We perhaps need to learn a few more of these self-help strategies too.
    It is kinda funny how people are suspicious of Random Acts of Kindness !
    Special thanks for the facebook link to Art Abandonment I will investigate!

    1. Thanks and thanks for the follow! We are all buying shorter belts here too, quickly while we can still afford them.
      You may have to leave slightly edgier art to get it noticed in the Calder Valley than the US suburbs. Good people tho.