Monday, January 23, 2006

Listening to Better Angels

When I was 16 I talked a thief out of stealing a charity’s plastic contribution box from the counter of a beachfront doughnut shop.

In the summer of 1964 my teenage morality was too keen to allow me to ignore Mike snatching the coin container and hiding it in his nylon parka. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t keen enough to keep me from hanging around with such a character, who lied as easily as he breathed, frequently started fights and let his friends down. So Mike was still part of my circle of friends, then, which would change, but it's quite another story.

Anyway, Mike and I, along with a couple of other high school classmates, had been up all night drinking as we searched for and crashed parties. It was about 8 a.m. and we were low on cash, to replenish our supply of beer and gasoline. In the vernacular of the day: we were "wasted." Living day-to-day on beer, cigarettes and doughnuts at Virginia Beach -- without adults in the picture -- passed for a happening lifestyle to us.

One of Mike’s weaknesses was his superstitious nature. So, I told him he’d probably catch the disease -- which one escapes me -- if he stole their money. Mike chuckled, because he knew I was trying to trick him into putting it back. Yet, a few fretful minutes later, he nonetheless undid the dirty deed and replaced the box. I was satisfied with myself then, in part because the people who'd contributed to the charity hadn't wasted their trust.

Now I would say the money would not really have been wasted, even if badboy Mike had kept it. The children who had put in their dimes, to help others they didn't even know, they became better citizens. So, there’s the act of giving, with the feeling of doing it. That’s one thing. Then there’s what happens afterwards. In truth, every time we follow our hearts to trust anyone, there’s a risk. Will we waste our money, or worse -- our time?

Today there are a lot of grieving people, especially in Richmond, who want to contribute in some way toward establishing fitting remembrances to the Harvey family -- a family whose lives touched so many others before their deaths on Jan.1 in their Woodland Heights home.

Accordingly, some of those who were closest to the Harveys are currently working with the The Community Foundation -- a Richmond-based non-profit foundation since 1968 -- to raise money, eventually to be used to underwrite projects honoring the family’s devotion to art and music, and to the arts education of children. The specifics are still to come, but because of who is behind this project I can happily endorse their effort. Here's the link to the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment.

Meanwhile, I’m getting email/messages from people who have bright ideas of how to raise money. They aren't sure what to do. My advice to them is to contact Kim Russell at The Community Foundation: (804) 330-7400.

Russell says, “For now, people who are planning something should get in touch.” She’s already had a few calls along those lines (see post below this one about a restaurant that raised $500). That way if anyone comes across a spontaneous fund-raising effort -- let's say a jar in a shop calling for donations, or restaurants giving a percentage of their take, etc., if you like -- you can check with The Community Foundation, to see if the folks doing the collecting have really been in touch and are on Russell's list.

Russell adds that soon she hopes to have such information available to everyone online, as well as the capability for donations to be made over the Internet. Resources are pouring in, some are donating services and so forth.

The important thing, at this point, is there are honest efforts underway. In time they will snowball. No one, not even Mike’s ilk, can steal the good feeling you’ll have if you listen to your better angels and get involved. More information on this topic will follow.

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