I will never hold a garage, tag or yard sale. Yes, I said never. On this point, I’m clear and sure.
And it’s not just because I can’t stand the thought of giving odd strangers the license to paw through my things and case my house.
I’m a giver, you see.
I have many faults. Oh, too many to count. But being generous with my things—that is not one of them. It’s the jewel in my crown. (Yes. My imaginary one. You have one too, don’t you? Really? Too bad.)
I am a firm believer in karma and energy. I don’t think feng shui or acupuncture are imaginative mumbo jumbo. On the contrary, I believe what you put out there comes back to you tenfold. That what you bring to the table, energy-wise, matters.
So, when I have “extra”, I am happy to share. I love putting whatever it is out there in the world to bring other people happiness. Could I do this by selling my spare things? Yes. But it’s the giving that seems to matter. When I give, I’m telling (and more importantly, showing) the universe that I believe in present and future prosperity. That I want to contribute. That I firmly believe that we are all the hands of God on earth. If we choose to be. And it is a choice.
When I did not have material resources to share, I shared my time and talents. I still keep in touch with the woman I taught how to read, Gladys, when I lived in Chicago proper. Raised by parents who spoke Spanish only, she was passed through the Chicago school system from grade to grade, despite the fact that she never really learned how to read. We worked for several years on the basics and, by the time we finished—she had taken and passed her written driver’s exam, gotten out of an awful relationship (self-esteem and education are so tied), gotten a better-paying job as a secretary rather than warehouse worker, and was able to read Glamour magazine with ease. That last item might sound trivial to you, but to her it meant the world.
In later years, I was able to be more generous with material resources. Sending a busful of Harlem kids for a series of shows at Lincoln Center , which they had never visited despite living just a few miles from it, made me happy. Their letters of thanks—the oohs and ahs—the windows that opened in their minds. I love the possibilities that occurred to them when some woman hundreds of miles away who had never met them sent them on their first field trip. Wow. The joy I felt when they wrote to me about seeing people on stage who came from a tough background similar to theirs. The disbelief at the gold gilt on the ceiling and elaborate fountains they saw. The vistas that opened up were beautiful. And that’s one measly field trip from little ‘ole me. Imagine the change in the world if more of us were able to give them access to the unexpected good, the kind gesture, the lofty goal.
I’m not patting myself on the back. But you get the picture, right? We all hold the power to pleasantly surprise someone who may be not often be on the receiving end of good. It’s a phenomenal feeling. It’s why Oprah says she was happy to give an entire audience new cars. Or send young African American men who couldn’t otherwise afford it to college.
Less grand gestures, I think, mean no less. Seeing a newly arrived refugee child running through the local school yard with a very distinctive shirt on—I peg it as one I donated to World Relief. And it makes me happy.
I even smile when I see my neighbor’s son sitting at the picnic table my sons had many a happy lunch at when they were his tiny size. I’m happy it continues to give someone joy.
I don’t remember one time when I’ve given something and then later regretted it. I tell my boys, “People first. Then things.”
And, in this area at least, I can say, “Do as I do.” So many times I cannot.
It’s a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. I expect to leave this place brighter than I found it. I’ve still got a lot of work to do.
I just know an army of souls is out there doing the same, despite what we see on the news each day.
We choose to be the good. Give it up for that.