The other day, I ran into my neighbor Matthew Sporzynski in the elevator. When he asked how I was doing, I let slip that I was on my way to way to have a scary test to check out my heart. “I’m sure it’ll be fine” I said, betraying my nervousness.
After several hours of Fringe-like tests involving isotopes in a freezing room, I wobbled home to find a white cardboard take-out container outside my apartment door. Inside was a cobalt-blue lens box that said SCHNEIDER (my name). Four key rings were nestled in it, each with a tag printed in French: APPARTEMENT, ATELIER, LETTRES, and RESIDENCE SECONDAIRE. There was a red leather cat collar with a bell – an unexpected bracelet – and an orange business card said “Couturier de Cardboard”, which meant the gift was from Matthew, who is an amazing paper artist with a rare sensibility.
Matthew’s gift had the effect of taking me out of my worried, tired head in an instant (while inspiring a sweet, momentary fantasy of an atelier and a residence secondaire.) It said, in the most un-Hallmark way possible: ”Someone is thinking about you and hopes you feel better.” And sure enough, I did feel better.
It reminded me of the times when I wasn’t sure how to respond to the dire need of another: a friend dealing with cancer or a loved-one dying. And I remembered a little book I saw recently called Do Good: 201 Ways to Lend a Hand written by Marci Silverman and Cindi Sacks. It is a book of ideas of simple things to do for someone who is having a rough time, or is frightened or exhausted from a long siege. It is written from experience: Marci’s husband suffers from ALS, a life-threatening and deeply debilitating disease. The book inspires ideas and affirms ones you may have had, but might have been shy about doing. (You can take a good look inside the book here.)
“Often, we don’t realize that what may seem like a small gesture or an insignificant act to us can actually make a meaningful difference in someone’s life.”
That “small gesture” can be all sorts of things…like the Couturier de Cardboard’s amazingly healing gift…(the heart’s fine, btw)…
Note: I asked Matthew where he found the little gifts he gave me and his answer speaks volumes about the nature of resourcefulness…That sometimes when we find something, we don’t yet know what it’s for... It expands the idea of what a gift might be…
“The box was found in the garbage on 22nd Street. It was poking out of a bag and it caught my eye. When I saw “Schneider” I knew it would be a nice thing for you.
The cat collar was from a Salvation Army thrift store somewhere. Even if there’s just “skulch*” merchandise, you can sometimes pull something cool out of a bin. I can rarely pass up something old and unused.
(* “Skulch” is my friend Barbara Mann’s term for low-quality stuff. She had an antique business in New Hampshire for many years.)
The key tags come from the BHV in Paris. They are from the shoe-repair section of the hardware department. What is chicer than having a “RESIDENCE SECONDAIRE?”
Note: We’ll be posting about Matthew’s paper art soon (with lots of photos)…