Giving Back


I received a note from an online friend, telling me she was considering starting a small scholarship fund for underprivileged kids. Even as I write that word “underprivileged,’ it seems wrong. I’m not sure what distinguishes a privilege from a right. Regardless of the specific meaning of the words, no one should be denied an equal chance in this world. I think she used the term students of color. She added, she doesn’t have a lot of money, but more than she needs. When we hear on one side how wonderful the stock market is doing and how much money they are making, and on the other side how unemployed and needy families are making decisions between buying food and plying rent, it’s difficult to find some middle ground. And yet, I know it isn’t that hard, we as human beings know no person deserves suffering. I think of Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” It also brings to mind the old bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” What an incredible dichotomy of thinking.

I realized this morning, I have for years plagiarized a quote I thought was original thinking. I never believed I was the first to say it but have assumed I held partial ownership. “I want to give back to life more than I have taken from it.” Something I’ve said more and more as I’ve grown older. I came across a line from some insignificant man that died in 1955. His name was Albert Einstein. This is what he unabashedly stole from me before I was born. “It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” I will attempt to be magnanimous enough to give him some credit for his thought.

Because I woke up suddenly old a few years back, I tend to talk with and think like older people these days. Not to sound morbid, but getting older and knowing more life is behind me then is in front of me is a fact of life. It brings about more thoughts of what’s this life all about? I find myself asking, as do some of my friends, what do I do with what’s left of my life? My days of dreams of pitching a perfect game for the Yankees have passed. I will not be paid a million a year because of my management talent. I’m not going to sip Scotch at the celebration for my winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Still, I want the rest of my life to have some significance.

A remarkable teenage girl wrote this in the 1940s. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Her name was Anne Frank. What a wonderful, mature, and profound bit of wisdom to hold at such a young age.

There is an infinite laundry list of things I can give away without reducing my bank account one penny, without emptying my cupboard, or draining my energy: a kind word, a thank you, a smile, being a silly old man with a child, picking up a piece of glass on the desert floor, giving an honest compliment to someone who has tried, a pat on the head of my dogs, listening a little longer, judging a little less, using less water, walking more, driving less. The list is endless.

I will once again commit to myself to do what I can. To take less, to give more. It’s nothing original to me, thanks Albert for expressing it before I was born. Thanks, Kahlil Gibran, for telling me that, “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”

One last thought. VOTE!  Vote for the candidates you support, no matter their political party. But you lose your right to complain if you don’t vote.

Go well, David

On a lighter note. “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”    Betty Reese

Louie’s Book Bark!

Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr is a small book of beauty. A couple move to a tiny village in Mexico to reopen a copper mine abandoned by the man’s grandfather. The two Americans, the only foreigners in Ibarra, live among people who both respect and misunderstand them. Gradually, the villagers – at first enigmas to the couple – come to teach them about life and fate. Doerr’s ability to create likeable, and memorable characters is reminiscent of Steinbeck. 

Louie gives it a four-bark endorsement.