Monday, December 22, 2008


It's another cold day in Streeterville. It's currently 7 degrees at the Mini. No data is available on wind chills. I've been looking out at the lake and the movement of the water has caused the once solid sheet of ice to break up into little chunks of ice, iceberglets, if you will. The water the berglets are floating in has taken on the aspect of say a Slushee that is just trying to melt. It's still a little thick.

Due to the movement of the water in the lake the berglets are slowly moving apart from one another and back together, just kind of slowly sloshing around out there in a fashion that could cause a person with a tendency to motion sickness to divest their stomach of its contents. It could make you a bit queasy if you watched for an extended period of time.

It reminds me of an incident that happened earlier today. Babs and I upgraded our home theater system recently and as a result we were in possession of a Denon amp and receiver that was over a decade old, yet still functional. We were also in possession of a Sony CD player that was a decade or so old as well. Both of these stalwarts were still functioning and we didn't know quite what to do with them.

A friend pointed us to a charitable organization called La Casa Norte that takes in homeless young people and helps them get back on their feet. I put the electronics in the Mini and headed to Humboldt Park. When I got to La Casa Norte I got the receiver and CD player out and walked it inside. The people inside were very thankful and happy to have my castoffs, as I explained that there was nothing wrong with the equipment and it still worked perfectly.

Then a rush of emotion came over me. I realized that Denon amp had gone from Chicago to Guam and back to Chicago with us and from Graceland West to Andersonville to Streeterville with us, still in perfect working condition. How could I just give away a piece of personal history to strangers. I had a real emotional attachment to that amp. And the CD player had come out of a closet to go to work again after a fancier, more expensive one had ceased to work.

However, when I looked at the genuine gratitude on the faces of the recipients and accepted their "Thanks so much and Happy Holidays to you," a queasy feeling developed in the pit of my stomach and I knew that I had done the right thing. Someone else was now going to put my equipment to good use and stir some good memories from its use, just as it had for Babs and myself.

Then I remembered another occasion, when Babs and I were having a yard sale, back on Greenview in Graceland West. I had this leather jacket that I thought was beginning to show signs of wear and maybe had become dated for me. Never mind that when Babs loaned me the money to buy that jacket back in Minneapolis before we were even married it was just the coolest item of clothing in my wardrobe. I had a thousand warm, fuzzy memories centering around that cool jacket, the only leather jacket I'd ever owned at that point.

Then a guy in a beat-up pickup truck stopped on the corner to see what we had for sale. He went straight for that leather jacket and asked, "How much?" You could see the excitement in his eyes and maybe, just possibly the disappointment developing from the knowledge that it would be too much to afford. I smiled at him, shrugged, and said "Twenty dollars." When that guy's eyes lit up and he pulled that Andy Jackson from his wallet, I got that same queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was selling the favorite jacket of my life, at that time, to some guy who looked barely removed from homelessness for $20 and damn he was happy to have it. I felt like a million bucks just being able to give it to him. I think back now and if he hadn't had the money, I probably would have just given it to him.

These moments don't come that often, but when they do you know you've done the right thing. You've touched someone else's life and for a moment you've made them happy, and it's worth all the consumer goods in the Western World to witness that. And that queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach is the indicator. It's a good queasy, not like the one you get from looking at a sloshing, Slushee-like Lake Michigan. Giving things when they mean nothing to you means nothing, but when you give from the heart, when you give something to someone else that means something personally to you and you know you've given something important......That's good. That is true giving.

Enjoy your holiday.

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