We Give, We Get

04/28/2019 1 By BuddyCushman

For many years I made an annual donation to The Jimmy Fund – the Massachusetts Children’s Cancer research and treatment fund. The Boston Red Sox have been affiliated with The Jimmy Fund for about forever, and one year my donation was large enough that I was afforded a lunch in the Fenway Park press room and a tour of the park. Before they added the ‘Green Monster’ seats. I continued to donate after I moved to Oregon, then for some reason I didn’t get it around to it this year. Not sure why, and I may be back with a donation come the next big fund-raiser.

However, last summer I consciously decided to stop giving donations to “organizations”, like the ACLU and the SPLC and other places with initials, like OPB, etc. I have my reasons and some aren’t written in stone and maybe I’ll go that route again. Like with The Jimmy Fund. But, the thing is, I didn’t stop giving. I just switched “give-ees”, from organizations to people – single, individual people.

Someone suggested watching a Ted Talk by the musician Amanda Palmer called “The Art of Asking”, and I did and it absolutely blew me away. Then I read her book by the same title and somewhere on the talk or in the book or on You Tube I followed a link she left to her “Patreon” page. Then I goggled Patreon and found out about it – kind of a slow-running, long-distance, kickstarter-like thing – and made the decision that most of the money I had been donating to places I would start donating to people. And I found myself scouting around on Patreon for other worthy folks to whom I could give some of my pittance of a monthly government check, and got going with it. At last count I am a “Patron” to eight creators, including musicians, artists, film-makers, and writers on a monthly basis, and also give directly to Maria Popova, who’s not on Patreon, but publishes the valuable and highly engaging weekly newsletter “Brain Pickings”. It comes out to about thirty bucks a month. I’ll have more on a couple of my don-ees another time.

A few weeks ago an artist in Scotland – Marie Buchan – who follows me on my Facebook art page and subscribes to my Blog at couchsurfingat70 wrote a comment to a post I’d left on the Blog about leaving a job I’d started at 70 and rather quickly bailed on to return with more oomph to creating. It was to the effect – well, here’s her actual quote: “Count me in on your journey Buddy. I am now looking out for your posts because I so enjoy reading them. Glad you’re not sticking at a job that’s not quite right for you. It just came into my head that when I was little there was a comic that I really liked which had one particular serial and I couldn’t wait for the next episode. The comic cost sixpence or something near that at the time, can’t remember rightly but my point is I would gladly pay a small subscription to read your stories. This ongoing one about interviews and jobs and selling your car is like a good soap!”

All I can say is it felt, Marie’s comment when I read it, like permission. I’d been thinking, back unemployed and wanting to fill my days more completely with writing and painting, about creating my own Patreon page, asking family, friends, fellow writers and artists, long-time collaborators all, to support me in an expanding life as one who creates for and gives back to the Universe. Just possibly brightening up a darkening planet. So I did it, I launched my Patreon page, and Marie became my first Patron. Walking the talk.

My wife Susan and I had a late-night talk Friday, about our journeys and inviting people to come along for the ride, and that it wasn’t, ultimately about money – which for sure I can use for supplies and publishing fees, etc – but it was more like “a pact”. That was the word which came into my head and it feels right. A deal – everyone gives….everyone gets. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I can hardly think of anything better these days. For me it feels real good to get an email from PayPal the beginning of every month reminding me of the journeys I’m part of.

I’ve belonged for more than 35 years now to a secret-handshake, can’t-talk-about-it-in-public outfit and you often hear this saying when folks get together one place or another – “You’ve got to give it away to keep it.” My Patreon page feels like that – it’s like that when I donate to others and it has felt like that for me as a receiver of people’s generosity and, I’d like to think, collective forward progress.

We give it away, we get to keep it. And it’s the “It” that matters most.