By Elizabeth White-Olsen, Executive Director of Writespace
Every now and then, I walk into Writespace and see new Poets & Writers magazines in the freebie pile or craft books in the bookcase. The first time this happened, I paused, feeling puzzled. Who put these here? I didn’t know. The items could have been contributed by a faithful writing student, a writing instructor, or a board member. They could have been donated by someone who joined a Saturday 600 Write-In. Whoever left them did not leave a note.
Once the shock passed, I felt a secret thrill of pride—not egotistical pride, but impersonal pride, like I was proud to be human and proud to get to play a part in something larger than I am. Sure, it seems like a small thing: magazines.
But it isn’t just magazines. There’s no more amazing love than the love that humans can show toward those they haven’t even met. Through Writespace, I get to see this love every day. I even get to see it in big ways, such as through the donations that help us keep going and help us provide scholarships to writers in need. While my role as Writespace’s Executive Director is challenging and often marked by a feeling that there is ten times more work stacked up than I could ever accomplish in a day, I’m also deeply blessed to get to contribute and create opportunities for others to contribute.
I don’t have a television or watch the news, because news stations tend to focus on bad news that kills hope, rather than on good news that builds hope, and I believe in building, rather than killing. But when I’m in a restaurant that has a TV blaring the freshest news of disaster over my delicious hickory hamburger or tofu pho soup or tuna sashimi, I see a world being depicted in which important things are not given, but taken away—whether it’s dignity and respect, automobiles, life savings, or even lives. Always, always, there is nothing I can easily do to help. I can, though, go back to work and help in the way that’s available to me. I can let go of thoughts of theft and death and return to a good place I have created, one in which things are given rather than taken. Given freely, without anything requested in return.
And, of course, it’s not just Writespace. Literary endeavors are often characterized by generosity because ultimately we are all creating stories that are meant to be gifts to those we don’t even know. A spirit of giving imbues most literary endeavors. Thank you for participating in whatever ways you do.
A year or two ago, these mugs appeared in front of our "Free Mags" sign:
If the person who anonymously gave us these mugs is reading this, thank you! Know that we use them. And if you don’t read this--and to all the volunteers, board members, instructors, students, and community members who have contributed to the vitality of Writespace without seeking thanks, acknowledgement, or praise--I thank you. I acknowledge you. I praise you.
Thanks for building hope in a world hungry for it.
P.S.: If you have issues of Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, or other writing-related magazines you are finished with, please leave them in the freebie pile at Writespace (magazines unrelated to writing tend to stay in the pile, so you can recycle them or donate them elsewhere). Thank you!