Thursday, December 17, 2009

On charity and the spirit of giving...

...and all that jazz.

I'm about to get all True Meaning of Christmasy on you. Bear with me. It was inspired by a discussion of holiday charity giving. This isn't even a Christmas story, actually, because I don't have any idea when it happened and part of my point is that you just do it without foofaraw or special occasions. Though now that I think of it, it does have certain overtones: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

My father was one of the hardest working people you could ever meet. He grew up hard in the Depression, plowed cotton with a mule, worked in a sawmill for ten cents an hour, and sharecropped for his uncle (who raised the rent on him). He was a Combat Engineer in WWII, was in three invasions (North Africa, Sicily, Normandy) and eight campaigns, and then came home to work for the Georgia Highway Department, later the Department of Transportation, for forty years.

He also had eight children, of which I am the youngest, and participated fully in our upbringing. He was in no way an absent or distant father. He was often heard to remark that he could have had money or children, but preferred children.

This is a story that was told at his funeral: One day when he was out on a bridge site, a man approached him for a job. My father, who was always observant, noticed that the man's pregnant wife was sitting in the car, and drew the obvious conclusion, that she was with him because they had nowhere else to stay.

He hired the man right then, but that wasn't all. I was not there, but I know how he talked: "When it gets to be quittin' time, you come on home with me." Knowing him, he probably didn't explain what he was up to. He didn't like to make promises until he was sure he could deliver, but if he said he would do a thing, you could count on it absolutely.

He brought them home and invited them to supper. He found them a place to stay for the night and later helped them find a place to live. He got them clothes and furniture.

I do not remember this incident myself, but extrapolating from other incidents and general knowledge of his character I can tell you he did not make a big deal of it and took care to be courteous and save their pride. I bet he didn't ask them how they got in that fix, though he would have listened politely if they wanted to talk about it. He did not pry or tell the business of people he helped. He never told me about this story himself; I heard it from other people.

This is the model in my head of how to act when someone needs something and appeals to you for help. Do it decisively and thoroughly, without judgment, and without holding it over their head. Do it up right. Let other people tell the story.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Write like a man

Just the other day I was chided for "spouting tired feminist dogma." (That person is no longer in my personal universe.) I'm sure you've been told that feminism is no longer necessary, women have all the equality they need, and that anyone who says otherwise is just a whiner who can't get a man. (Interestingly, they were telling Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony the same spiel.)

The story here: a struggling freelance writer was getting few jobs, low pay, lots of crap and demands for revisions from clients, and did one simple thing that raised pay and customer satisfaction through the roof.

What, you ask? What amazing secret brought her jobs, money, and praise?

She started submitting her work under a male pseudonym. That's it. I cannot adequately express my rage. I'm glad the author of this article was able to sound reasonable, because all I seem to be able to say is, Holy crap. Holy fucking crap.

Write like a man

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