Art and Generosity. Oddly Enough is a an editorial piece written by Tim Clark and shared with The Ugly Writers under the theme Quell for the month of January
Art and Generosity. Oddly Enough
It was a sign, “free books.” It was taped to an old, small pickup. The books were scattered around the pickup in well used produce boxes, the sides were soft and rounded. Glued all over the pickup were figurines, parts of dolls and toys, bottle caps, corks from wine bottles, the whole surface was covered. Even at Street Fair it looked alien, odd, out of place, no matter where it was it would have looked out of place. Nobody noticed it, it sat there almost invisible.
Everybody was focused on the books.
It was there every Street Fair, June, and October. It sets in roughly the same place. And the books are always different. People look through them and help themselves.
Occasionally we’ll take a book. Mostly though, we watch the people who come and help themselves. I look at the pickup and try to understand the meaning. If there is one. The patterns are obvious, neat, orderly rows of similar things marching from the front to the back, across the hood, down the sides. A child’s xylophone will break the pattern, only to see it start again on the other side. There is a row of little plastic arms, a row of Disney princesses, a Deadhead sticker. I can’t understand why anybody would take the time. It had to take hours.
Political signs, advocating democratic candidates cover the windows, the bed of the pickup, stickers cover bumpers, run up the C column behind the doors. These change with the coming election, always up to date. It is a work in progress.
Nobody ever really looks at the truck. There is always a crowd at the boxes of books.
“Can I take more than one?” A little girl asked her father. A conversation I overheard, a couple of years ago.
“Yeah, sure, you can take some.” He said. His accent was heavy, and he started to add something in Spanish, but stopped himself, and struggled through. “They want you to have some.”
They were immigrants, and dressed neatly, but the man’s right shoe had tape wrapped around the toe. And the little girl’s dress was spotless and neat but worn at the elbows.
She was so excited, she grabbed a handful of books. Her smile seemed larger than her face. She looked radiant, with a joy only children can experience, and often provided by a simple act of kindness.
There are always people taking a book or two, the happiness of getting something for nothing animates the conversation.
We always bring some books to add to the boxes. Sometimes, my wife will find boxes of crayons, and coloring books in clearance sales at the grocery store, she’ll snap them up, and we carry them there and add them to the boxes.
I look at the pickup and wonder about the owner. There is no tip jar, everything is free. What drives him/her, (though I think it’s likely a him, not a her) to put his heart on his sleeve and his sleeve on display, right there at the main entrance to Yellow Springs and Street Fair. And, I watch the people take books, thrilled with the joy of discovery. And it gives me a little hope. The world is trying to tear itself to pieces, but in a few small places, and in a few odd ways, there are people trying to bring it back together again. I’m grateful for their effort.