11 August

Friends Bearing Gifts. The Shock of Generosity

by Jon Katz
Friends Bearing Gifts
Lisa And Maria

I saw the most beautiful thing this afternoon. I went out to lunch with Maria and some friends at the Round House Cafe, I came back and, exhausted, fell asleep. I woke up about an hour later and there was no one in the house – no people, no dogs. Maria did not answer her cell phone. Our friend Lisa Dingle, who was visiting to help out and say hello, but she wasn’t there. I went outside, groggy and disoriented. Lenore was wandering around by the back porch, Red was at the pasture gate, lying down waiting for me, he was lying in a puddle of water from the overflowing animal water tank. I called out, there was no one around. I made my way into the pasture gate, Red leading the way, he led me to Maria and Lisa.

I heard laughter and rounded the corner and Lisa and Maria were talking, laughing, happy to be together, I loved the look on both of their faces, it made me so happy, I was lucky to catch it on camera, it was the face of friendship and connection. Lisa came bearing gifts – toilet paper, paper towels, peanut butter. She saved one of the best gifts for last.

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Lisa had shocked me a couple of hours earlier. She showed up, asked Maria and I to sit down and took out a bunch of envelopes, there were a score of them, they were Disney World cash cards for various amounts, together they added up to a vacation at Disney World, something I had dreamed of doing this year but had no expectations of doing.

After my open heart surgery, I wrote that Maria and I were tired, we were looking for some way to have a vacation, Lisa organized the very creative members of the Creative Group At Bedlam Farm, formerly the Open Group At Bedlam Farm, a community of encouragement (open for anyone to read and see), a community of hundreds of creatives of different kinds – artists, photographers, writers, quilters, weavers, drawers and designers – who share their work with one another and who have formed some of the most powerful friendships I have ever seen, online and off. So many of them contributed, sending what they could afford, for some it was a dollar bill, for others much more.

As I recovered from my surgery, and unknown to me, members of the groups were plotting secretly and enthusiastically, sending money to Lisa so that I could go with Maria to Disney World for a week this winter. There was enough money, I believe, for us to go for a week, fly there and back,  stay where we want, eat what we want, do what we want. I was shocked by this generous and thoughtful gift, thrown off balance. No one in my life had ever given me a gift like that, I had no context for it, Maria started crying and I was speechless. I did not know what to think.

I can think of nothing I have done to deserve a gift like this, I said I couldn’t accept it, I didn’t really even know how to accept it. But Lisa and the group members were way ahead of me, the money was all in purchased Disney cards, they could not be returned or given away.

And I wanted to accept it, so after some hemming and hawing, we did. So we are getting a vacation, a gift of friendship, we will go to Disney World in the early winter, when it is best not to be up here and best to be down there. I love Disney World, I have loved it for years, I am a hopeless romantic, I do see it as a place where dreams come true, a wonderful place to celebrate my new heart, my healing.

I don’t understand generosity like this, I will be awhile absorbing it and thinking about it and trying to make sense of it. The Creative Group is one of the most rewarding things I have ever been involved with, every day the members there share their creative sparks, their paintings and poems and blog posts and refrigerator art. It is a safe zone, no hostility is permitted, this has allowed trust to grow and friendships to deepen. The group has changed lives and altered perspectives, one of the best things I have been around, especially online.

Still, this is a part of recovery I suppose. I do not believe I deserve this, I do not believe I am worthy of it. Maybe I will be one day, these people are showing me how. I think the gift is about accepting love and generosity, bowing to connection, drinking in the cup of humanity that is what it truly means to be a human being. So, Jon Katz, you just had Open Heart Surgery. What are you doing now?

We are going to Disney World.

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