Thursday, June 17, 2010

The WTFiest Gift I've Ever Received

Today, I got a bus pass in my mailbox, which made no sense to me since I obviously have cars sitting in my driveway. I dropped it trying to rush inside without indulging the escape artist that is my cat when I noticed there was a note on the back. It said, "Parcel by your back door." Getting packages is my selfish little addiction, and I'd go so far as to skip eating to order something online. So, I rushed down the basement stairs and opened the back door. There was a big box, and I knew that I hadn't ordered anything other than jewelry supplies and beads.

To tell this story, I have to mention that I've been doing critiques on the Etsy forums, and I've gotten an in-depth look at some of the coolest shopkeepers on Etsy. They have been good sports (or masochists) while I brutalized their shops. A common thread was that many were teachers. There was one very special shop that had this amazing carveboard art. It really struck me because it reminded me of the richness of Harlem. That's the beauty about a piece of art. It's like a story about a personality, and without words it has a theme and without words it conveys an emotion. Without a plot, the colors, lines, harmony or discord, the textures, the order and chaos, it has it's own conflict and plot. I loved the art on SOiNTOiT's page. It reflected someone who-- to be cliche-- was so full of life. The vibrant contrasts and bold statements were the work of someone who was bawdy [ I say that with reverence ;-) ], not afraid to take risks, embraces love, and celebrates what is positive in life.

Someone like me might seem like a morose pessimist, but seeing a shop like this makes me feel good about myself because at least I can see something so life-affirming, creative, prolific, and effervescent and smile. The items in Pamela's shop, a cacophony of media resonant of the free-spirited, ADHD overachiever, remind me of one of the greatest experiences of my life... visiting NYC. The simplicity of statements like "be mine" or a cut-out of the alphabet can be so profound when they're genuine. It reminded me of the cultural revolution of the late 80s/early 90s when a big faction of society stopped just tolerating diversity and really started to celebrate and embrace and advocate for it. Harlem had that effect on me: the street vendors, the subway musicians, the elaborate graffiti murals, the Kosher hotdog stands, and the "melting pot" culture that is completely missing in a place like where I was born and raised.

I wasn't shocked at all to see that SOiNTOiT was a music teacher. I'd be willing to bet she was one of those rare teachers who really inspired and made a difference in the lives of her students... one of those crazy, eccentric, WTF-type teachers. The same kind I aspire to be. Seeing that she was Orff certified even further cemented my impression of her, that she is one of those transformational (as opposed to traditional) lofty idealist educators who take learning beyond the books and embrace this paradigm that learning takes place when the needs and learning style of the "whole child" is addressed.

AYE, suck it up now readers. Don't think this glimmer of humanity is going to be typical!

So... onto my package. I open it up, and being the stoic that I am... I felt my eyes sting. It was certainly one of those epiphanous moments in life like when the Grinch who stole Christmas looked down at Who-ville and realized that Christmas wasn't about the gifts but about the relationships and all that junk... [ disclaimer: yes, I realize that my childhood analogies and deference via vagaries makes me very transparent ]. I almost didn't know what was happening to me. I received a personalized piece of art from SOiNTOiT (see picture >> ), and I LOVE it. This is sheer conjecture, but I believe the reason she has the "i" lowercase in her username is a symbolic expression of unselfishness in that that she doesn't want to elevate the "I."

Have you ever just been rendered speechless and simply stunned by someone's kindness? Pamela made this amazing piece of art specifically for me with no intention of getting something in return. So, possessed by Pamela's giving spirit, I would like to issue a challenge to everyone. Join me in the WTF PIF (Pay It Forward) campaign. Instead of paying someone back, do a favor for someone and tell them that all you want is for them to do something WTF-rendering-kind for someone else, and instead of allowing them to pay you back, tell them to "Pay it Forward." BUT... it can't just be any act of kindness... it must be WTF-worthy. Make sure you include a little hand-written note about what PIF means, otherwise the "cycle of kindness" stops. Of course you are a creative person, but here are some ideas:

1. Take your best (or one of your best) craft items and put a note inside it explaining the "Pay it Forward" principal. Wrap it with your prettiest paper, tie a ribbon around it, and stick it in your purse. Go somewhere tonight or tomorrow and give it to a complete stranger.

2. Buy some ice-cold bottled water/drinks and give them to the first person you see on the street (walker, jogger, construction worker) who looks like he/she is burning up.

3. Go to a local deli, buy a drink, and leave a tip for your waiter/waitress for five times the cost of your drink. Eat ramen noodles for dinner. ;-)

These are just a few ideas. If Pamela's kindness has inspired you to commit a WTF PIF act, please email me your story at [ pictures would be nice, even if it's a picture of yourself ] so I can feature it on this blog.

Below are some sample PIF cards if you wanted to print some. Click the images for full-size. They are standard business-card size. Let me know if you want a photoshop (.psd) version, and I'll email it to you.


  1. This is totally awesome. All of it - the art, the story, the suggestions...

    Good stuff :)

  2. Love the critiques, just hope you're able to make it to the end!