January 30, 2017

This One's On Me

On a recent redeye flight during which I could not manage to even doze off, I found myself watching an interview with Oprah Winfrey on the inflight entertainment.

She wasn't conducting the interview, though—she was the subject of it.

One thing she said that struck me was that her guiding principle in most things is the desire to want to connect—something I can relate to—and that the way that she connects is by sharing.

She tells the story of growing up poor in the Deep South, and whenever she managed to get her hands on a Snickers or Three Musketeers bar, she always waited to enjoy it until her cousins could share in the experience with her.

Sure, she could have saved it all for herself, greedily hoarding that precious chocolate.

But, as Oprah herself said, "it tasted better" if she could share it.

She likened it to a beautiful view—which was often my struggle with traveling and adventuring alone. I had no one to share it with.

Of course, then I started taking photos everywhere I went, and that was my way of sharing the experience. Only, I wasn't sharing it with one special person; I was sharing it with the world (or whoever would click).

Thinking back on the days not too long ago when I was financially destitute, the thing that bothered me the most wasn't so much the inability to provide for myself. It was that because I couldn't provide for myself—I was barely surviving, even with government assistance—I couldn't "share the wealth," so to speak, with others.

I couldn't buy even the tiniest token gift for a friend. I couldn't pay for my own drink—much less treat someone else to one.

I couldn't tip—or, just barely. 

Of course, I found other ways to contribute and feel relevant and important—volunteering, providing emotional support, and other such less tangibles—but I really missed the opportunity to be generous.

I realized that generosity was a real gift.

So, now that I've been gainfully employed a little over a year now, I find myself overcompensating. 

Last Christmas, I found myself dropping more money than I had to buy some Christmas presents for a homeless family camped out on the sidewalk in Hollywood. 

Today, I gave a NYC taxi driver $10 on a $4.80 fare. It's not much, but it brightened both of our days at least just a little bit.

I've been miserly with many things in the past. My boss's children once asked me for some food I had in the office, and I refused them. If they wanted my cookie, I'd think (and perhaps even say), "Get your own!"

But what is life in a vacuum? What's a memory unless it can be corroborated? 

What's a dollar stuffed under the mattress worth?

Maybe this is why I find myself in a cycle of financial troubles. I was doing well in 2007 when I took friends to dinner and loaned them money. By 2010, I was dirt-poor. 

In 2011, I was once again raking it in. And three months later, I was scraping the bottom of my purse for loose change.

And I never want to share so much as when I've got nothing to share. Because I know how bad it can get.

For now, I'll do small things when I can. I'll try not to be greedy or selfish or immune to the plight of others.

I'll join the ACLU to support their fight to uphold constitutional law.

I'll subscribe to the LA Times website instead of working around its pay wall so its journalists can continue to report on issues I'd like to read about.

I'll donate to the Jamaican bobsled team so they can hire a coach and make it to the next Winter Olympics.

I'll pick pieces of lettuce out of my salad and feed them to my cat, who has a taste for Romaine and blue cheese dressing.

I'll share my bed with him and spend my paychecks on towers, scratching posts, brushes, and catnip.

I'll give what I can, in any small way. Because whatever is mine isn't really mine. It's just a means to an end.

Related Posts:
A Reality, Shared
Mine, All Mine
Life Amongst the Humble

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