Wednesday April 16, 2014

Wagamese: Giving freely has big rewards

For the past five weeks I’ve been offering a free writing workshop at the public library. In the beginning it was only intended to be a one night a week event. But as numbers swelled and the original 30 seats filled quickly, I decided to add another night. So for five weeks, some 60 people have been gathering for three hours once a week over two nights. That’s 30 workshop hours at no cost for the patrons, the library or me.

In those five weeks I’ve watched people change as writers. They’ve gone from awkward, shy and doubtful into writers with confidence. They’ve been able to reconnect to a love of language that enables flow and power and grace. They’ve changed as people. They remember that they are beings whose major gift from Creator is the gift of communication.

As I watched them emerge, something happened to me, too. I was able to reconnect to a love of being a guide, of being someone who knew a territory so well that it was only natural to want to show it to others. I’ve been a professional writer for almost 35 years now. To bring the wealth of that experience to those who aspire to do what I do is wonderful.

And it’s free. It costs me nothing to go to the library for three hours a night. Heck, I’d probably be doing that anyway to read, research or write in a quiet corner. A library has been my favourite haunt most of my life. It doesn’t cost the library anything either. There’s no staff to pay, no supplies to provide. There’s just the provision of space and they did that eagerly.

So the cost of 30 workshop hours is nothing. But the payoff to the people who attended is immense. The benefits they gathered from being able to learn from an award-winning author of 13 titles in 20 years are innumerable. The payoff for me is a heart gladdened by the experience of giving. For the library it’s increased awareness of its function in the community.

So everyone was a winner. Which leads me to wonder about all of the people in this community who are expert at something. There are incredibly gifted and talented folks who live here. Many great livings are being made by virtue of being a part of this thriving community of ours. My career exists at this stage of it because of the influence of Kamloops and its people.

To realize that made it easy to offer my time, experience and expertise at no cost. Call it payback. Call it gratitude. Call it reciprocity. Whatever label you choose to apply to it, it remains an act of recognition of the spiritual fact that we all exist because everyone else does.

Imagine if we could all remember that. Imagine if anyone who had a professional level of talent offered their time to give that ability away to those who aspire to it. Imagine how our world would be different almost overnight. Imagine how much closer we would be as a community, as a nation, as a human species. That’s the larger and more important picture here.

If there were no people I would have no career. That’s just a fact. All my treasures and pleasures would not exist. So in recognition of that I chose to act in a manner of thankfulness. My big reward? I got cookies and a jar of honey. I got the looks in the eyes of genuinely grateful people. I got huge hugs. No salary or award could ever match that.

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