Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Kindness Project: Giving


Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole . It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts.

Today I just want to highlight something I heard about on the radio. I know, it's kind of a cop-out in comparison to some of the other Kindness Project posts I've done, but I've been slammed at work lately, and even being on a hiatus from blogging hasn't helped much.

So anyway, I was listening to NPR on the way in this morning, as I am wont to do, and I heard this story, about literary giant Larry McMurtry, author of Terms of Endearment and Lonesome Dove, among others, who is holding an auction for 300,000 rare and used books.

His bookstore, Booked Up, is apparently a sprawling operation that takes up four buildings in his tiny town of Archer City, Texas. It's home to around half a million books, the majority of which will soon be going up for auction. In the interview, he said that he was concerned about his legacy, but wanted to unload some of the books because his son and his grandson are not book people.

This got me thinking about family, legacies, and giving. My dad died four years ago this October, and when my sisters and I went through his house, there was a lot of stuff to decide about. A lot of paintings, a lot of records, and a lot of books. Not nearly as many as Mr. McMurtry, of course, but a lot. We still have not had time to go through it all.

He died suddenly, and while he did have a will, it didn't specify what he wanted done with any particular items, so we've put most of it in storage until we have time to decide what to do with it. Someday I hope to have time to decide what I want to keep, and what I can give away, assuming someone somewhere wants it.

When I first heard about this auction, I was saddened and amazed (he's not giving the books away for free or anything, but still), but then I remembered my dad's stuff, and recalled what a burden it can be.

I don't know if I really have a point, but you should check out that story, it's pretty interesting. And here are the rest of today's Kindness Project posts:

29 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Stuff is just stuff, be we don't always know what it meant to the person keeping the stuff.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I hope he turns around and donates the money to a (several) incredible cause(s). Now that would be an act of kindness.

Miranda Hardy said...

It's admirable that he's disposing of his possessions now rather than having his children or grandchildren deal with it later, especially if they are not into reading as much as he was.

Bryan Russell said...

He has a memoir about writing and bookselling called Books: A Memoir, which I have been wanting to get for a while.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Like Stina, I hope he donates the money to charity.

And I hope you all figure out what to do with your dad's stuff. It's hard to let go of it all. But we only need so much stuff in life. If I could convince my husband of that.

Old Kitty said...

When we went through my late sister's things, I kept as much of hers as I could. They'll stay with me till I pop my clogs and I kept these things because I thought they represented who she was and what I remember of her!

Take care
x

LTM said...

I think the most disturbing thing about that story to US as writers is that nobody wants his books--LOL! :D I mean, that's the problem, right? Here's this amazing writer, and you'd think his kids would be like, "What were you reading that might've sparked *that*?"

Ahh, well, such is life. And I guess that's kind of the point of my TKP post today. We have to be sure we're spending that quality time w/the ones who matter. It doesn't seem our obsession transfers to them. :o) <3

Jess said...

Really interesting! I just went to visit my parents and part of their "stuff" included 3 huge boxes of my childhood things (paintings, photos, school stuff, soccer stuff) that I hauled home. I know they have similar boxes for my sisters. So they're still trying to get rid of their children's things :)

mshatch said...

I'm actually giving away some books because I know I have too many and what a drag it would be if someone suddenly had to deal with all of them. That's too bad McMurtry's kids aren't interested in books but now that I think about it I don't my son will care much about mine either.

Kimberly Gabriel said...

That's sad to me that McMurtry's kids aren't into books especially because he apparently is... I too hope he donates some of the money...I bet it's a fantastic collection.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Some years ago, my grandparents did something similar. They moved to a small home after retirement, auctioning off so much of their stuff--stuff that I felt sentimental about even. Some things were given to family, but most of it was let go. And to be honest, most of their stuff was old and would likely end up in a storage closet somewhere, forgotten about, if given to family. And then they took care of all their finances and paid for burial plots and tied up loose ends. It seemed so morbid to me, but the truth is they were just trying to be kind. They're still alive and hopefully will be for a long, long time, but they know as we all know we can't stay forever. And the only legacy you should leave behind is the kind that won't saddle anyone with a burden so great they struggle just to mourn your loss.

Kelly Polark said...

It's too bad his child and grandchild are not into books! But I do think it is smart and kind of him to unburden his offspring by doing this. It would be a lot to deal with in a future time of sadness.
If he gives the money to charity, great, if not, let him spend it in his last years or save it for his children when it is his time to go.

Nancy Thompson said...

Not book people? Unimaginable! I've never considered what to do with all my books when I pass. I guess if my son didn't want them, I would hope he would donate them.

farawayeyes said...

Acts of kindness are best done when you least feel like it.

Stuff - do you want to talk stuff. My Dad died in 1999. I currently live in the Caribbean and I have a storage locker in Idaho, filled with his stuff. There are some things that I can't bear to get rid of, but for the most part, I hold on to it out of guilt.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I've started going through some of my dad's belongings with my brother. He's still alive but half crazy. Boy does he have a lot of junk. It's amazing what we do with our lives and the time that we are given. Men seem to start collecting as a child, knock someone up, spit out a few kids, continue to collect and get old and fat, and then just die. It all seems so meaningless.

Johanna Garth said...

This post hits close to home. My father-in-law is failing rapidly and there will be so much STUFF to sift through. He keeps asking us to do it now and none of us want to accept the reality of what that means.

Andrew Leon said...

Part of why I write is so that I have something to leave for my children other than a pile a junk. I've previously collected a huge pile of junk, so I figured it was time to go on to something else.

It's too bad, though, that an author didn't take the time to instill a love of reading in his son.

maine character said...

This is why it's vitally important to write a letter - this month - letting everyone know what you'd like done with your stuff, just in case.

Who to give that book to, and who to let read your journal, and how that old Bruce Lee book is a collector's item worth fifty bucks, and so on.

If you don't tell people, there's a good chance it'll all get tossed or put in a yard sale.

Claire Hennessy said...

Getting rid of most of my 'stuff' when I moved to the USA was one of the best things and also one of the worst. But ultimately, very free'ing. I love not having crap stored everywhere. But that reminds me - I must make a proper Will! Yikes.

Michele Shaw said...

My grandma started cleaning out her house not long after my grandpa died. Every time I went over, I left with a dish or some other trinket she'd offered. As a result, when she had to move to a nursing home, my mother (an only child) had a rather easy time clearing out the house and selling it. It was such a relief to both of them. The nice thing was how she did it gradually, and we could have anything we wanted along the way. I'm typing this right now from her old dining room table, now in my dining room, and it makes me very happy. When I open the china cabinet, I can still smell her house. Magic.

Heather said...

It does make one ponder what we leave behind and what, if any, instructions we leave with it.

KatOwens: Insect Collector said...

Our own "stuff" can be overwhelming, and when it's the "stuff" of a beloved family member it takes on a whole different level of meaning. When we went through my grandmother's house i found myself saying i'd take stuff because i could tell my dad and his brothers wanted to feel it was going to be used and loved. In all honesty, i had to get rid of some of it. But, the things i do have and use mean a lot to me.

Julia Karr said...

Stuff wrapped in memories. So hard to get rid of, but I'm learning.

Sara B. Larson said...

I agree with Stina, I hope he does something good with the money. Other than keep it all, lol. But you bring up a good point - how things that are just "stuff" to us, could have/had great meaning to someone else. I don't look forward to having to go through my parents belongings when they pass on. It will be very hard.

erica m. chapman said...

Sorry to hear about your dad. I can't imagine having to go through all of my dad's stuff when he passed away.
It's always hard to sell or throw away memories like that.

I got a box when my dad died (he lived in another state) and as much as I wanted to keep everything he ever touched, I couldn't. I picked a few things and threw the rest away. It was hard, but honestly, I don't miss it. I cherish the few things I chose to keep that meant something to me. Good, honest post.

Angela Brown said...

Many people don't and can't comprehend the stuff they have until they move. Leaving this world suddenly leaves all that stuff to others to deal with.

It's pretty nice of this author to want to auction off the books and leave something that his relatives CAN do something with since he's honest enough to know leaving them books would be leaving them something they really wouldn't want to keep or want to deal with.

Victoria Dixon said...

As someone who has, within five years' time, inherited stuff from both her grandfather-in-law and her father-in-law, I get the whole overwhelming part of this. Just the sheer amount of stuff is overwhelming and then there's the emotional quotient involved, too. And now we're dealing with my parents needing to downsize and my Dad being unable to prioritize anything. I like the idea of donating and/or auctioning stuff. That may well end up happening. Thanks for the idea. ;D Also, thank you for the very kind comments on Adam Heine's blog a few weeks ago! Sorry it took me so long to respond. *__*

Ink in the Book said...

I love my family history and I have always been thrilled to receive something that belonged to my family. My mother just gave me a necklace that belonged to my great grandma. I had a few mementos from all my grandmothers but her. That meant more to me than a brand-new necklace:)

Deniz Bevan said...

Did you say 300,000???? Wow... I wish I lived in that bookstore.
I haven't been in that position yet, of having to sort out and dispose of stuff. I think it would, hopefully, make me less avid to collect stuff in my own life. I'm a bit of a paper and books packrat...