Monday, December 12, 2011

Reader's Diary #782- Joan Sennette: Amanda's Special Gift

A few morality thoughts this week. First, how do you feel about Google books? Each Short Story Monday I highlight a short story that I find for free online. But this week I wanted to read a Canadian Christmas story and couldn't find any except for some at Google books. I know Google books is controversial but at least they provide a link to the publisher and the anthology, Tales of Christmas, in which Joan Sennette's "Amanda's Special Gift" appears is found at Breakwater Books for just $2, if you're interested.

2nd morality thought: last week, Teddy Rose, avid Short Story Monday participant, commented on my review of "Brother Robber":
I don't usually read Chrismas stories because I don't celebrate the holiday. However it sounds like a good message. I just hate Christmas stories that send the message to not let people starve on Christmas, because it seems to me they should never starve.

I thought the comment interesting, especially as I'd not really noticed that there was a preponderous amount of such stories. However, when the first story I stumbled upon this week also dealt with hungry people at Christmas, I thought maybe Teddy was onto something. So then I reflected upon the rest of her comment.

Of course, it's true, no one should starve at any time of the year. So why then am I, as I'm sure many people are, more likely to donate food at Christmas then other points of the year? And is this necessarily a bad thing? I'm not suggesting that I'll find an easy answer, but I do want to try and address her very valid observation.

I have a number of reasons. One, if I was personally homeless at Christmas, I think I'd find the day even more difficult than the others. Christmas is a special time for me and to be that down and out at this time of the year would be almost unbearable. If someone could alleviate my hunger, if someone reached out to me, I think it would help lift my spirits. But even if I did not celebrate Christmas, I think seeing others being happy and well-fed and even frivolous, would make my situation feel even worse. Again, knowing that I was at least considered on that day, might help. I say this all without ever having been even close to such a situation, and I don't presume to know how homeless people might feel. Yes, I realize that they, as would everyone, prefer to always have food, not just at the holidays, but if taking it one day at a time, Christmas is a good a day as any, I would imagine. And if I can't afford to be donating food everyday, there's certainly no harm in making it Christmas day is there? I would hope that if everyone donated at Christmas, food banks might even take in a surplus and use it for the other 364 days of the year-- no different really than if they made an arbitrary day Food Donation Day. Say March 3rd. If Christmas shoppers want to spend some cash on something less frivolous, even if just to ease their conscience, is that bad? Should food banks not take advantage of this? Again, I don't really know. To me Christmas is a peaceful, hopeful time. If I donate some food or clothes or whatever to someone less fortunate at Christmas, I hope it provides some temporary relief, and I hope long term relief is just around the bend.

On that note, "Amanda's Special Gift" is about Amanda, a little girl who has her first encounter with a homeless woman. She decides to help her out and her enthusiasm for the task is caught by those around her. But seeing the potential in everyone, it leads to a lifelong career for Amanda. I've given away the ending, I know, but it captures the hopefulness that I feel at Christmas while, most importantly for this post, hopefully addresses Teddy's concern about charity beyond Christmas.

Anyway, thanks to Teddy for the food for thought. Pardon the pun.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


Julie @ Read Handed said...

I don't mind Google books. In most instances in which they provide the full text, they have made arrangements with the publisher to do so, or the book is out of copyright. In the United States, books become public domain 75 years after the death of the author, unless the author officially passed down the rights to a relative, etc. which usually does not happen and certainly doesn't for works created before any of this was an issue.
Otherwise, Google books provides only a "snippet" view or excerpts depending on the preference of the publisher. I think it's excellent that they not only link to Amazon, etc. so people can purchase the book if they want, but also link to Worldcat so people can find out whether they can borrow the book from a library near them.
Interestingly, the story I read today also has to do with hungry people being fed and taken care of on Christmas. I found it a bit cheesy, though. The story is "Tilly's Christmas" by Louisa May Alcott.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I agree that looking after people should be something that happens without fail all year long. But if a holiday like Christmas helps to remind people that they have an obligation to share, then that's okay with me.

Teddy Rose said...

Thanks so much for putting so much thought into my comment, John. I have volunteered at food banks before and yes, I do think they should take advange of Christmas and any other way they can fill tier shelves. However, the reason there is now the Christmas in July program encouraging more food donation in the summer is because their shelves are pretty empty by then. You would think all the Christmas donations would last until the following Christmas but the harsh reality is that it doesn't. In fact, a lot of the donations are packaged cookies, etc, because it is Christmas. Nice thought, but not the nutrition people need.

One of the grocery stores I shop at has a food donation bin and I make a point of buying something nutritious, like brown rice to put in there at least once a month. I figure I can go without a soy latte or something in exchange.

Here's my short:

John Mutford said...

Julie: Good points!

Barbara: For sure.

Teddy: Again, I appreciated the question. It forced me to do some reflection on the issue-- which is never a bad thing!

SuziQoregon said...

I actually prefer google books to some of the other ebook purchase options. Although not the case with this particular anthology, I can often purchase them through my local indie bookstore (I'm lucky because my local indie is Powell's).

I finished up a couple more stories in Tom Franklins excellent Poachers this week. I'm scouting for a new collection to dive into.