The Public Act of Generosity

Is rarely the one worth mentioning

There are nightly Covid fear/Covid stress conversations in my house. Anxiety over being face-to-face with the public day in, day out because there aren't other options for us. Anxiety over all the failures of the social systems we expect, and pay for, but have not risen to the occasion at any level. America stands poised to launch decades-spanning military engagements that cost trillions of dollars at pretty much any moment, yet when it comes to taking care of its citizens, of all of us, it shows nothing but failure. One must simply look around and see the results of that. Everywhere, the State crumbles.

So we all are in the position to do our best to stand together in support of one another, and when it happens it is a beautiful thing; not because of, but in spite of, the bullshit situations we find ourselves in all too often. One example: as holiday bustle picks up, Julia (like every responsible business owner) has had to control how many people are inside her shop—Show Room Missoula—at any one time, even with everyone in masks. She tells me the other day there were several people lined up waiting for their opportunity to be inside, but that they were all being genial about it. She tells me it made her a little verklempt, because customers can be jerks and these people were responding to the situation with kindness, whether they realized it or not. The kindness that is the result of being chill, of not being hurried, of not being too wrapped-up in one's own deluded sense of personal importance.

Another example. Last year at the bookstore during the holiday mayhem we put out a tip jar for booksellers in exchange for all the gift wrapping we do (don't get me started on that, by the way) so that we could end the season with some kind of holiday party. People were generous for a few days ... and then someone stole the damn jar. I posted my outrage to Twitter, as one does, and suddenly a bunch of people were asking for our PayPal address so they could donate us party money. And they did! And when the stampede was all over, one of the last things we did as a group pre-Covid was go out to the Union Club for frosty beverages and heaps of nachos. It was one of the last really fun social things I did before everything changed. And it wouldn't have happened without the generosity of mostly strangers who really had no reason to be so generous.

Speaking of donations. During the 6-8 weeks or so we were closed to the public, Mara, who runs the store, put up a donation link for people who wanted to contribute to a bookseller fund. People gave generously. Not only that, but we were inundated with online orders, something that hasn't hardly slowed down since we reopened. The community of people who love books and respect what we do rose up to support Fact & Fiction. From a personal level I remain constantly grateful, so grateful, for how the community has supported me and my writing. It has been one of the most wonderful underestimations of my life.

So there, on this day after Thanksgiving (honestly I planned this post for this week having forgotten Thanksgiving was even happening), are three examples of unsung people doing good things. I would like to hope there are some among you readers who would love to share some other interactions you've had that shed a little light on a world far too dim lately; small, unheralded kindnesses that deserve mention. It's a perfect opportunity to make some of us happy, maybe even hopeful, and you will feel better for mentioning it too, I guarantee it.

So ... what do you have for us?