The best thing about 2011 is that it wasn’t 2010. A close second, though, was the volunteer work I did. We’ve all experienced the magic of giving back. The secret feeling of fulfillment, pride, warmth and self-congratulation turns the act of giving into the very real act of receiving.
A friend of mine puts together backpacks full of food and comfort for the homeless of Detroit. She recently reported joy and relief when she noticed three people under a viaduct and three full backpacks in her car. There’s no description that can accurately tell what happens inside us during the moments following an act of kindness like this.
Although we did donate cash to her project, my acts of giving were far less overt and most likely carried less singular impact. That song and slide show above is an example of giving back. I’m giving back and so is Coldplay.
Coldplay is an internationally famous pop music group that allowed their song (The Scientist) to be used in conjunction with a slide show I shot at a bone marrow conference in Atlanta this past fall. When Coldplay’s representatives said I could borrow their song, I immediately wished my photos were better. And this is a note to my photojournalism friends; try not to judge these pictures against the backdrop of important, news-shaping images. The photos — all taken within conference room confines — are probably only meaningful to the people who attended, but these are my people.
Before I donated my time and photo services to the marrow symposium, I donated a T-shirt design that I’ve written about before. I hope I don’t come across sounding too do-goodie or anything. Rest assured, I gave and gave this year to pay back the Universe for all it has done for me. I’ll continue to pay it forward, backward, sideways and even elliptically if I can.
I come from that spiritual corner of the cosmos that feels events and physical realities can be altered by intention, actions, words and deeds. That game has one Golden Rule, taught to me by my dear mother way back when. “Always clean your room; God doesn’t like slobs.”
No, honestly, it was that whole “do unto others as you’d have others do unto you” thing.
It’s a rule common to most, if not all, spiritual traditions. Something so universal must carry at least a bit of weight. So I’ve been trying my best to do unto. Knowing that I get back whenever I give, though, I fall into one of those weird Rodney loops where I think I’m giving for the wrong reasons. I wonder if I give because I want to get. Then I start feeling bad for giving and it all goes haywire if I let it. Trying to follow the Golden Rule, I become a golden fool.
These are the times I step away from the cosmic computer and take a little break from myself. An old English professor of mine told us that if we take ourselves too seriously, we’re done for. My cure for self-seriousness invariably involves some sort of food. It’s hard to feel pompous while munching on a Rice Krispie treat.
In some ways, writing about doing good is like bragging about being modest. And everyone on the planet has the capacity to do good deeds whenever they can. I’m just thankful that the opportunity occurred as much as it did for me this past year.
Here’s hoping 2012 brings even more chances for us to prove to the world, and ourselves, that we’re good human beings.