Thursday, April 30, 2015

By an odd series of coincidences

this last couple of weeks, I am drawn back to the theme of giving. 

In my last blog post I wrote about doing a favor for a friend, and how in doing so I found a publisher for some children’s verse that I wasn’t even really looking to sell right then. I titled the blog post No good deed goes unpunished. It was a sort of sarcastic comment but I wasn’t feeling particularly generous toward the world at that moment. And yet the world, with a sort of blasé indifference to my mood, chose to do something nice for me.

This morning’s reading brought me this quote from Robin Wall Kimmerer, “a gift comes to you through no action of your own, free, having moved toward you without your beckoning. It is not a reward; you cannot earn it, or call it to you, or even deserve it.” Later she quotes Lewis Hyde, “it is the cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange than a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people.”

Although Kimmerer and Hyde were speaking about gifts from the earth, it’s being made clear to me through no fault of my own, that these statements actually work for all gifts.

I have somehow become involved with a group of givers. It’s a secret Facebook group that if I tell you about in detail I will have to kill you. Actually, they would probably kill me. So I won’t go into detail, except to say that this is a truly amazing group of people. 

They’ve decided to go beyond gift giving at Christmas and help each other out whenever someone has a need. Some in this group have more disposable income than others and they have figured out ways to help those who are struggling at the moment with gifts of both necessary and “unnecessary” items. Some are bought, some are swapped.

And what has grown out of this group is the amazing gift of friendship across state lines, continents, oceans. Across social, occupational, class, and age divides. Those who can, give. Those who can’t, often can pay it forward in the smallest of ways, like giving someone struggling with a load of groceries a ride to their house. 

A gift that might not have been given had the driver not been given to.

Sometimes the gift is just that of listening. Listening to someone who is having a tough day vent. Letting someone blow off steam without feeling their problems are not as important or as great as the people listening. Cheering someone on when they do something that their immediate family or social group might not see as a great accomplishment.

And possibly the most important thing of all we are learning. Definitely one of the hardest lessons for me to take in, and to remember. People are giving the gift of accepting help when needed

When you accept help you allow someone the gift of giving. And that may be the best thing that you do all day.

I’m a giver. Most givers find it very hard to take. As a result a lot of people find me hard to take. Especially at holidays, birthdays, and when I’m struggling, and they know I’m struggling, but I insist that I can handle it. Whatever it is. I’m learning that sometimes the way to make someone’s day is to let them help. 

What a concept.

Okay, so that’s several solemn and serious blog posts in a row. Where, you may be asking, are the funny and clever blog posts with all the carefully chosen clipart?

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m setting up a series of podcasts. I’ll let you know as soon as they’re ready to go. I’m putting most of my funny, 87% of my sarcastic, and 93% of my puns into the podcasts. 

Oh, and all the clipart.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

No good deed

goes unpunished. Isn't that the way the saying is supposed to go?

Well, let's just say that in my past, and especially over the past couple of years, that's
pretty much been my mantra. Not that this stopped me from trying to fix things. And people. And situations. Sometimes all three lumped together at the same time.

Because that's what I do. I'm a fixer. And in 58 years of living I haven't learned that while some things may be able to be fixed, very few situations can be, and almost no people. Okay, let's be realistic. No people. You can't fix people. Most of the time you can't even help them fix themselves.

And it's not like I'm Pollyanna. I don't bop around with my head wrapped in candy floss thinking everyone is practically perfect, just needing one little tap on the head from my magic wand to make everything better.

 (Some people mix metaphors. I like to mix fictional character references.)

But I digress. Shocking, isn't it? I'm usually so blunt and to the point in these musings.

The point is, I can't help trying to help. And since I can't do much physically these days, I have to get creative. So I'm delighted when a friend drops into my lap a positive, concrete thing to do, something that I can easily accomplish that will also be a great help.  This happened recently:

A dear friend of mine has run out time.  No more trials, no more chemo.  He’s reached a place – perhaps not acceptance, but nearby – but the thing is, my friend has written some beautiful poetry that his family would like published. I happen to know (or thought I did) the name of a publisher in the next town who had a reputation for a quick turnaround of self published projects.

Nuff said. I would take his project to the publisher and help see it through.  I could help. Really.

Then things got interesting.

I flipped through the phone book (yes some of us Luddites still do that) and looked under publishing. Called a number listed, talk to a very nice man about the project, and made an appointment for the next day.

About 10 minutes into my face-to-face conversation with the very nice man I realized that this was not the self-publishing company of my memory. Apparently there are two publishing companies in this small town. Fortunately, the very nice man (let’s call him Andy, mostly because that’s his name,) had helped people with projects like this before and understood the need for a quick turnaround.

 There were sailing pictures and model boats on all the walls, and a nautical theme throughout the office. Suddenly the name Mariner Media made sense. And of course, in one of those crazy island coincidences Andy had sailed to Cuttyhunk Island many times in his youth. He'd even read my island memoir, and liked it. We talked about what I was doing now, and he asked if I had an illustrator. I replied that I didn't need one for the 'tween novels but I'd been looking for one for a series of silly children's sea poems that had been knocking around in a drawer (literally) for 10 years.

Andy might have an illustrator. He’d like to see a poem or two.

Within two days I'd sent him the poems, he called me in to look at some illustrations, and I sat down and signed a contract for the book. Working title, Washed Up in the Waves.

A good deed. Done not to fix, but out of love. No expectations. 
Not only not punished, but doubly rewarded. 


I would like to believe that if I believed in such things, this would be the sort of thing I would believe in. 

I guess that day, everybody did the best they could with what they had to work with that day. 

Let’s keep it up.