Supporting the Arts

I believe in the power of art, and that it is worth our support. Artists see things the rest of us miss, say things that we sometimes didn’t even know needed to be said, and shine much needed light into some pretty dark places. They are valuable members of society, and I’m not usually able to support them as much as I would like. Money that I didn’t expect to have recently appeared in my account, and that has given me an opportunity to, as they say, put my money where my mouth is. As part of my decision to use my stimulus money to support the arts, I asked some local authors to choose one of their works, autograph it, and sell it to me. The choice of which book to offer and how much to charge was left entirely up to them.

I had authors refuse to accept any money and tell me to use what I would have given them to buy a book from someone else. Some quoted me a discounted price. Some quoted me the retail price, and a couple offered to mail me the book and refused to let me cover the cost of the postage. 

One spread out all five of his books and asked me to choose. When I repeated that it was his decision which one to sell me as well as how much to ask for the book, he picked one and said, “That will be $60.00.” He signed it, I wrote him a check, and he handed me what was obviously a used copy of one of his books.

It’s been an interesting exercise so far; one thing I’ve been reminded of is that how a person receives a gift says very little about the giver and quite a lot about the recipient. I had people tell me to act as their agent to support someone else’s efforts, people graciously accept the gift as it was given, and one person who saw an opportunity to unload a used book at a high price.

It’s good for me to do this kind of thing when I can. I’m learning that as a giver, I am handing over the decision about how to respond to the recipient, and I need to truly let go. Also, I’m trying to learn that as a receiver my best response is to say “thank you,” and accept the gift in the spirit it’s being given. I’m still working on that part. I sometimes see a gift as assigning some kind of obligation to me to reciprocate, which misses the point completely and, more importantly, deprives the giver of something they had set out to do. It’s funny how I sometimes make it more difficult for people to be kind to me. Not impossible, you understand. Just awkward.

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A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

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