Giving More Than You Bargained For

Sometimes digging deeper into our pockets yields a bigger treasure

Photo by Ted Eytan via  Flikr

Photo by Ted Eytan via Flikr


I have been teaching classes of one kind or another for over 30 years. It’s been interesting to see the change in how you are seen as the teacher as you age.

Nowadays, I’m seen as seasoned. A veteran. Even by class participants far older and wiser than I. Guess I’m too old to be dismissed as young, inexperienced or merely entertaining.

Class, to me, is a sanctuary, and I want it to feel that way to everybody who comes to spend part of their day, and their life, there. The room is a safe and supported space to connect in a deeper way; to grow, to restore, and always, to discover. Class is a place of inspiration and resuscitation. For me too, even though I may be the teacher. My students are my teachers and my guides. They light the way, not just for me to be a better teacher, but for me to be better person. They give me hope and they lift my spirits.

Last week’s lift came from one of the lovely “regulars” I’m fortunate to see in class quite often. Marty* (I’ve changed her name for privacy) is a working actor in her 70’s. She has done what very few are able to do, continue to act professionally for decades. You would not recognize her on the street. That is par for the course of most working actors’ lives. It is not a glamorous or particularly lucrative existence, just rare and worthy of admiration.

Marty was telling me about a guest spot she had on a recent episode of a very well known television show. We talked about the business and the available work for women in her age range. Successful as she is, there aren’t a lot of jobs and even less money.

So it was quite a delight to open up her mail the other day and see a residuals check for $700.  Residuals are royalties for certain types of work. For commercial actors, residuals for the right spot could support you for an entire year or more. Usually though, residuals for non-famous actors amount to a very modest sum.

As it turned out for Marty, she has appeared on several episodes of, “What Would You Do?” and those episodes had aired multiple times, to the tune of earning Marty $700.  You can imagine her excitement!

“What did Marty do?” you ask? Marty decided to share her good fortune.

Every week, Marty volunteers to feed folks who are in need of a good meal. One gentleman who came for a meal had an accident recently and broke his eyeglass frames.

Marty had seen a sign in the neighborhood for a “Blowout Sale” on frames. Surely, she thought, she could buy new frames for this gentleman so he could wear his glasses again and she would still have money leftover, which would certainly be useful!

So Marty and the gentleman went to the glasses store. Sure enough, they found frames. The man behind the counter asked the gentleman for his lenses so he could insert them into the frames. Upon seeing the lenses, the man behind the counter said, “You don’t want to use these lenses! They are so scratched up, you’ll hardly see anything. And sure enough, the man had a point.

“So what did Marty do?” you ask?

She bought the man new glasses.

In NYC, a pair of new glasses is hundreds of dollars, easy. Needless to say, that purchase lightened Marty’s wallet.

But it lightened her in another way, too.

“I really just did it for myself. I thought, ‘I can do this for him.’ And it felt so good.”

That residual check and the part of it that went to pay for those glasses is the gift that keeps on giving. I left class that day on a high.

Thank you, Marty.