Should It Really Be Called Charity?
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...