I purchased Paula Fenwick’s Ocean Nestbird from the ELEMENTALS Birds exhibition at SLU, though “purchase” isn’t really the right term here. Of the nearly 40 artists who participated in the ELEMENTALS project, a good percentage of them decided to offer their work for sale in exchange for doing something to generate good will or feelings of positivity, such as donating a nice meal to a local charity. That was the way the two exhibition organizers, Inga and Andy Hamilton, had set up the show—for artists’ works to generate good will and positivity.
Paula had indicated that her three birds were “US $56 each, or $32 if the buyer agrees to buy and give a total stranger a bunch of flowers, or $0 if buyer verbally agrees to a random act of kindness.” So, I cogitated for a while. I didn’t necessarily want to buy the artwork outright, because something about this show asked visitors to re-think their relationship to the world around them. (Hmmm. Crazy how art can do that, isn’t it?)
Therefore, as I continued to think it through, I wondered, at $32, how will I choose “the right” perfect stranger? At $0, what qualifies as an act of kindness?
And then, my random act of kindness appeared right in front of me. I didn’t have to go find it. It found me.
Yesterday, I went to the local food mart to buy a few items. In the checkout lane, a guy and his teen-aged daughter were going through the usual routine. In this case, however, the guy’s debit card wasn’t working. He tried four times and held it together pretty well. (I’ve been in that situation before, and it stinks!) He tried it again as a credit card with no luck. He tried three times more putting a plastic bag around it, now running it up to eight times through, and nothing. He rubbed it on his jacket. I rubbed it on mine. It wasn’t working.
Well, you can guess what happened next. I paid for his groceries. I told him and his daughter about the art exhibition and that I was trying to figure out what to do to perform a random act of kindness. I don’t think they really cared about the whole back story, which is fine. Maybe this debit card thing had happened before. All I know is when I said I would cover the bill, the two of them just melted with relief. It was pretty sweet.
The other part of it is that I used to go food shopping with my dad after my mom left our family when I was 14. He and I (and my two sisters) were sort of on the edge, I think, trying to make sense of how to proceed without her. I remember making a shopping list every week: ham with pineapple slices, cheez-pixies, orange soda, bread and sliced meat for lunches, etc….
Anyway, yesterday, according to the grocery receipt, the guy and his daughter bought a BC CAKE ($1.19), 80% GROUND B ($10.97), JMBO BNLS CH ($8.96), TOP RND LOND ($7.48), and two BCN WRPD BF FILETs ($2.00 each). It came to around $32.00.
I hope Paula, Inga, and Andy will be happy to hear this story.
The transformative power of art!