Donation Day #2: (Thanks)Giving

“A powerful way to show how thankful you are for what you have is to give some of it to those who have less.” (Vincent DiCaro, CNN contributor)

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Donated winterwear… and Freya, wishing she could have a pair of baby booties.

On Saturday November 10, after many delays (mainly due to exhaustion) and thus a bit later than I would have liked, I finally made it up to the Safehouse to donate my late Grandma’s scarves and baby booties, as well as the hats I crocheted over the summer. The final tally came to 22: 11 pairs of baby booties, 6 scarves, and 5 hats. Everything I made, save for some of the embellishments, was crocheted using my Grandma’s yarn. Giving away the beautiful things that she had made, as well as a few of my own creations, felt so wonderful and rewarding. I thought that parting with her creations would make me sad, but it did not: I was happy knowing that I fulfilled a generous task that she had done in life.

There was a trend on Facebook that a couple of my friends were taking part in: every day for 30 days, they would make their status something they were thankful for. Thanksgiving certainly is a time to be thankful– I myself have many things to be thankful for– but frankly, some of these statuses struck me as… well, selfish. Even tactless. I am happy for people who are able to live comfortable lives and be mindful of how lucky they are, yet there are so many people out there who do not have much to be thankful for. For one of my friends who posted every day about what she was thankful for– like the fact that she has a warm bed, a good job in a sh*t economy, her own car, etc– I’d say she got an average of 5 likes per status. That’s about 150 for the month. When I posted a status about giving things to those in need, I got 2 likes.

Two.

Granted, it was only one status (though I just posted the beautiful story of the NYC cop, Larry DePrimo, who bought shoes and thermal socks for a homeless man, and it only has one like). Perhaps people thought I was being preachy. Perhaps the fact that I have about half as many friends as this one girl does means that two is about right if we’re thinking in terms of percentages. Perhaps people just don’t check Facebook on Saturday mornings. Or perhaps my friends– real or “less real” (aka the people I barely know and am only Facebook friends with just because)– too vividly remember how selfish I used to be not too long ago.

I suppose that a little bit of selfishness is to be expected when you spend years struggling to stay employed in a bad economy, then dive headfirst into grad school, and mix in the fact that I am an only child. My shift towards being a less selfish person really began near the end of my first semester of grad school: I, like many other grad students, rarely ever feel like I am doing well. Grad school made me hyper-conscious of myself and my actions, but one of the few things that made me feel good was being kind to others. When my Grandma died, it was like something permanently changed in me. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt for not having talked to her more in the months immediately preceding her passing. In a small way, my crocheting was an act of penance– for being a bad granddaughter and for being relatively selfish. Her death was a tragic catalyst that made me realize how much I wanted to do more good in the world.

Christmas is around the corner, and I am making plans to set up boxes at work and school to take donations of clothing and blankets to the Safehouse. This November and its 30 Days of Thankfulness may be over, but next year, I am thinking of doing my own version of it. And I won’t even care if I don’t get a single “like.”

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Hurricane Sandy and the future plight of US museum collections

As we all know, Hurricane Sandy has left an extraordinary amount of damage and suffering in its wake. After a little more than a week, 110 people in the US are dead (with another 67 dead in the Caribbean and 2 in Canada), 350,000 in New York are still without power, and there is thought to be between $15-20 billion in damage. In the midst of all of this human (and animal) suffering at hand, everyone is understandably more concerned with working towards the safety and preservation of life. However, when power is restored, homes repaired, and lives made somewhat whole again, attention will likely turn towards more “abstract” concerns.

Flood damage in the (unfinished) 9/11 Memorial Museum
(Source)

I saw a couple stories over the weekend about how flooding in New York City affected cultural institutions. In the first story, Anderson Cooper interviewed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as they toured the 9/11 Memorial Museum site. The museum, which is mostly underground (and thankfully still empty) flooded with around 200 million gallons of water. It was roughly 5 feet deep. Another story on Bloomberg Businessweek drew attention to the millions of dollars of damage and loss of art after the basements of artists’ studios and galleries flooded (I should note that the first story I read was on CNN, but the link appears to be broken). A massive conservation triage-type effort is underway to halt further damage to works that can still be saved– indeed, conservators in the area are absolutely inundated with work– though some were simply damaged beyond repair (or the money it would take to repair and restore it would be more than the piece is worth).

There is a lot of buzz about how this storm has really brought attention to the fact that climate change is starting to manifest in more noticeable (i.e. highly destructive) ways. Sandy was literally a perfect storm of events: a hurricane + a cold front + high tides. In another article on ArtInfo on the 9/11 Memorial Museum, it talked about how museum planners knew that the museum was built in an area that was susceptible to “100-year floods.” While there was theoretically a 1% chance that the museum could flood every 100 years, the area has seen substantial flooding twice in the last 14 months. Talk of future storms is taking into account increased frequency of so-called 100-year storms and higher sea levels. In other words, the destruction that we saw from Sandy– particularly the flooding– could very likely be the tip of the iceberg of future issues along coastal lines and areas of low elevation, which also happen to be the locations of some of the biggest and most prominent museums in the US.  Continue reading