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Give The Gift Of Survival 12 Months A Year

It’s never too late to be generous.

One of the more important changes to Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” is that the result of his visits by three spirits on Christmas Eve was that his change from miser to philanthropist was not temporary.   Dickens tells us that Scrooge became known as a man who kept the spirit of Christmas in his heart every day of the year.

It is something for us to emulate nearing the start of 2021.  The need for charity and support will be important for many individuals, organizations and businesses.

It’s doubtful there were many tickets for theater performances, concert tickets and restaurant gift certificates purchased for Chris  stockings this year.  It’s difficult to think of buying tickets for events that are uncertain to take place.

It’s a pity.  The entertainment industry went past the crisis stage several months ago.   It’s been a disaster for a while and will remain so for the immediate future.

A post-Christmas gift of tickets to future theater or concert productions would never be more appropriate.  A gift certificate to a favorite restaurant might keep your favorite spot in business during what is certain to be a desperate next few months.

Immediate cash to keep places going is an acknowledgement that they are missed, and we share their loss.

But a purchase to be redeemed in the future is a sign of optimism that our entertainment-restaurant industries will survive and one day will again be part of our everyday lives.  Advance purchases have even more psychological value than does a flat-out donation.   If belief isn’t a Christmas value, what is?

Actors, musicians and those in the food service industry (many of whom were unemployed actors or musicians) have long been in the category known despicably as “the working poor.”  Now they are just poor.

Studs Terkel once wrote a book “Working” that consisted of interviews with hundreds of working people.  The book, later turned into a popular musical, made a direct connection between an individual’s work and his/her dignity. When a person’s profession is driven by passion for what they do, the loss of being denied the opportunity to do what you love is as bad, maybe worse, than the loss of income. Few of the artists that I know want charity.  They want to perform.

A long tradition for musicians is busking.  That’s when musicians play in the street or public gathering places depending on passersby to drop a coin in a bucket or open instrument case as a reward for the performance.  Today all artists and entertainers are working in a form of busking. Instead of a sidewalk they appear on zoom.  Rather than an open case there is a donation button.

A good rule of thumb for today’s Zoom mentality is don’t take without giving.  Not only might the donation or fee be a means of survival, but it rescues dignity as it is payment for services rendered.

One reason Actors’ Equity was formed was because actors had to be protected from their willingness to be exploited as their need to perform transcended a desire to be paid.  There is no one to protect an artist on digital platforms.  If you use it, pay something for it.

Many musicians will tell you after the purchase of sound equipment, travel costs and time spent setting up and taking down the equipment, there are gigs that are the equivilent of working for nothing.

As for take-out meals that dominate our dining habits, it’s reported that delivery tips have been Scrooge-like.

Few would argue that a digital offering is equal to a live performance, or a take out dinner equal to table service.  But don’t penalize hard working, needy people because of the limits of the delivery system.

Artists need to be rewarded for keeping their art forms alive.  We are in the midst of a pandemic that isolates us from each other, but we are still a community.  And members of a community support each other.

As we enter 2021, be part of a community that values hard work, creativity, resilience and passion.  Those are the traits that keep us human.  For the arts to survive, they need to be supported even in their most non-productive moments.

You often hear the phrase “give generously.” I say, giving anything is generous. As we approach 2021 make that resolution to be part of the salvation of things we can no longer take for granted.   Help an arts organization whenever possible.

Change your mind set. Pay today, not for services rendered.  Instead pay today for a brighter future tomorrow.   And, of course, if you don’t want to buy tickets for some date in the future – donations are gratefully accepted.

It should go without saying this same philosophy should extend to all.  Yes, support the arts - but don’t neglect your neighborhood businesses or - for that matter - your favorite public radio station.

Like Scrooge, celebrate the spirit of generosity all year long.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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