Monday, June 19, 2006

Should It Really Be Called Charity?

Downblog, Gary very carefully, very tactfully suggested that I might try to find second audiences for the possessions that, in my pre-moving frenzy, I find oppressive.

Well, this evening, I ran into a woman who lives in my building whose children I've always thought are just great. I have the impression that the parents might be swimming upstream--they've often seemed stressed out--but their children are so kind, so exuberant, so thoughtful, from the brief encounters I've had with them, that I've got to think that the parents are doing something entirely right.

So, when while taking out the garbage, I ran into the mother who was doing the family laundry, and I dared suggest that maybe her children might be interested in some of the books I was looking to get rid of. "Science Fiction, Fantasy, some Young Adult stuff?" I was so afraid of seeming patronizing, you see.

When, later, I rang the doorbell to deliver the goods, I had already prepared my defensive talk.

("I'm sure you've already read the Harry Potter books, and perhaps you wouldn't be interested in the George Martin series...And if there's anything you don't want, feel free to return it?")

The older children showed an understandable wariness ("no, we haven't read all the Harry Potter books," the eldest said, with poise), the younger children a friendly welcome, and then the mother, on her way to collecting the laundry, responded kindly.

Enough so that I urged her to accept a color encyclopedia: "It's not really useful to me, with the internet, you know? And I'm moving from here in a couple of months, and it's heavy." She hesitated. "It'll be useful to them in their schoolwork," she said, and I urged her to accept the gift. "But it's sad news that you're moving," she said, and I feel happy and yet devastated.

While I'm happy finally to do something for these kids I like and happy that these books further that goal, I'm also sad--sad that it's taken me so long to get to know my neighbors, sad that the town/gown divide should have applied within my own building, sad that I didn't find a more direct way to act on my goodwill towards these children.

I have a few months yet. And then there are all the opinionated marginal notes I've left in the encyclopedia...

6 Comments:

Anonymous I don't pay:

Saddened, sure, but on some level bolstered by having found a way to show decency. Part of the problem is that many of us have too many books. When I was young, there were very few books in the house that interested me; I used to take encyclopedias to bed. I could have used them then. We, or I, anyway, just forget when books weren't something of a burden.

6/20/2006 10:31:00 PM  
Blogger washerdreyer:

How to get rid of books. I recently read my own archive, and found more posts that I liked than I'd remembered writing.

6/21/2006 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Bolstered, yes, IDP. It is hard to break through some of the reserve, some of the fear of giving offence, and I'm glad it all went over well. You're right on the second point: when I was a kid, I'd read anything, and there was never enough of it.

Washerdreyer: thanks--yours a great suggestion. And, well, I rather doubt I'll go with the theoretical suggestion that by putting the books in a store I would maximize their value to whoever bought them. The argument works, but I think it doesn't track well with my experience. (And, by damn, if someone's going to get money from these books without investing any extra effort, it should be me!)

6/21/2006 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Farber:

"Downblog, Gary very carefully, very tactfully ...."

I can't say how happy I am that I may have seemed that way. I fail so often.

"Science Fiction, Fantasy, some Young Adult stuff?" I was so afraid of seeming patronizing, you see. "

Not following that at all. Offering skiffy is less patronizing than offering other stuff?

Maybe I should be more sensitive to my life's work (earlier, anyway) being patronizing. I dunno.

I never realized, incidentally, in your previous posts, that you were talking about moving.

6/22/2006 01:42:00 AM  
Blogger liberal japonicus:

If you have more leisure time, this is a funky concept that a friend of mine is into, but I haven't done it yet.

6/22/2006 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Offering skiffy is less patronizing than offering other stuff?

I wanted it to seem as though I were offering things they might actually enjoy reading, as though I were offering things for them, not simply to get rid of them. Since their oldest is about fifteen, I thought that skiffy might be very neat for her to discover.

Moving--yes, soonish, within NYC, I hope. I don't much feel like blogging about it at any length just yet.

LJ--Thanks very much for the suggestion. As you say, when I have some more time to look into it (ahem, and other matters...).

6/22/2006 11:55:00 AM  

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