Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The gift of giving

A few weekends back, it was Emerald City Comic Con time here. One of the steampunk gals at school wound up with two extra tickets for the Sunday session after her blended-extended family plans changed (as they can often do). I knew that Katie Sackhoff, Starbuck from the new Battlestar Galactica, was going to be there, and I knew that my sister would just just love to see Sackhoff live and in person. So picked up the tickets, planning to surprise Sissy.

Well, as mice and men know, things gang agley - Sackhoff cancelled her appearance. Dang.

That weekend I texted Sissy: I bought an extra ticket to the emerald city comic con for tomorrow so you could come with me and meet katie sackhoff. But then she cancelled.

Sissy texted back: You're kidding, right. I've been trying to talk phil [her husband] into going tomorrow all week. The walking dead people are there!

The Walking Dead cast appearances hadn't even been on my radar, but I knew Sissy and Phil were big fans. So, I gave them the tickets. Tucked them in an envelope, drove down to their townhouse, slid them under the door, and there it was.

They went together and had a great time, a wonderful respite from some trying times they had been handling. Both Sissy and Phil sent me several texts from the event and they were clearly having a ball.

Best money I ever spent.

Just last weekend, I took a tour with my honey of all the Value Village thrift stores in the area so she could look for long, flowing, lightweight clothes to take on a trip to Thailand. She found some, and I had a chance to pick up odds and ends like a sweet electric pencil sharpener. Along the way, I snagged a little bag of Homies - plastic figurines of contemporary Latino characters from the urban West Coast. I had seen these before and was intrigued by the craft and the concept, so I grabbed the bag of one large and ten small figures for a couple bucks, just to have the chance to check them out closely.

I brought them into work a few days later to show them to my partner in crime, the Associate Dean, who had grown up in Southern California. As I spilled the little plastic people out of a paper bag into her desk, the A.D.'s face light up like a kid's on Christmas. With wide eyes, she started setting the figures up and laughing with familiarity and recollection; picking up one little cholo, she said "I went to school with guys like this!" Her pleasure was so intense and immediate, I said "You know what? You keep all these."

As I left her office, she was laying out all the little figures to take a phone phone to send to her husband, who is Hispanic. He replied to her text immediately, saying that it looked like a picture of his high school graduation.

She took them up to show one of our faculty members who is Chicano. He was tickled and gave her some academic analysis of the problematic nature of the figures and pointed out one that he said looked exactly like his brother. So she gave him that one and a few of the others.

Who knew four bucks could spread so much pleasure?

It's a trite homily that it is better to give than receive, and I would never stoop to that cliche here. But I have to tell you, I have never gotten as much real joy from getting something for myself as I have from giving stuff to others and seeing it make their day. Each of these instances made me feel happier than the possession or experience of the purchases could have ever done. So what do we call that? Altruistic self-interest?

I can't wait to do it again.


Will Shetterly said...


Richard Bensam said...

What I like best about this is that you didn't buy the figures for yourself, nor to give to anyone else -- it just happened that way, as if without effort or intention, you simply were the means by which this happened. That's something cool right there.