Dear Whoever You Are, Who Gave Me an Anonymous Gift Ten Years Ago:
As you know, back in 2012, during the national economic Great Recession — and what was to be found to be the localized Great Coverup of the removal of some whistleblowers — I found myself suddenly unemployed, along with a score of university colleagues. In the midst of some of the deepest pain of my life, my father walked into my office and said, “A couple I don’t know came by the house and said, ‘You don’t know us, but we know Brad, love him, and want to give him a gift.’ They handed me this.”
He handed me a bursting-at-the-seams envelope embossed with a bank logo. (I just started crying as I’m writing this.) I thought: “Oh my. That is a lot of … One-dollar bills? Five? Tennnnn-dollar bills?” I paused and allowed myself the greedy hope of thinking “Twenty-dollar bills?”
I was wrong. It was a lot of $100 bills.
That night we had a family meeting. I said: “Someone wants to help our family. I am going to be job hunting online. And you all have homework to do and papers to write. We are constantly vying for computer time. It seems to me that if someone wants to help us, the thing that would most help us would be another computer.” It was agreed.
After quick but copious and well-informed research that included “it will last longer than three cheaper computers,” I bought a well-loaded MacBook Pro (and had money left over). In the 10 years since then, on this computer, I have kept my budget balanced, edited and stored thousands of photographs and videos, polished the final manuscript of my book Restacking Caps and Loving the Monkeys Who Took Them, written scores of essays, some poetry, thousands of correspondences, recently “finished” a novel of more than 500 pages (currently being polished and seeking a publisher), and I’m working on a nonfiction book on spirituality for those distrustful of organized religion. It has only been in the shop twice — once for minor repair and once for a memory upgrade.
But yesterday I was back at the shop because I have embarked on a new venture that requires more guts. My guy Dave (at the Laptop Dudes in Cookeville, Tenn.) says the time has come to upgrade to a new device and save this one for a backup. This time next week, I likely will have a new MacBook — consistently rated as one of the best devices for delivering online therapy. So, while it’s on my mind, I want to thank Whoever You Are — and all the other people you represent — who generously bequeath gifts.
A few weeks after getting this laptop, I started substitute teaching at my home high school. (A set of life’s most humbling moments: standing in line at a job fair with my own students and then going to substitute teacher training.)
I overheard a student whisper: “I knew it. He’s rich. Look at that MacBook.”
In one of the first classes I substitute taught, the teacher had left an assignment for the students to complete at their desks. After they started, I flipped open this MacBook. I overheard a student whisper: “I knew it. He’s rich. Look at that MacBook.”
I said: “Excuse me class. I just overheard something I want to address. Someone said I must be rich because I have this shiny, new MacBook. I want you to know something. I spent 12 years as a minister — three of that was part time while I finished my Ph.D. The last six years I’ve been teaching at small, private colleges. The amount of money I have in the bank won’t make a healthy down payment on a car. I have very little money.” I paused. “But, yes, I am rich. I am rich because — like Jimmy Stewart at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life — I have good friends.” And then I challenged them to be anonymously generous by telling them the story of You —Whoever You Are.
I’m telling the story to the world so your blessing will continue to inspire and bless others. Thank you.
February 5, 2022
Written on a 2011 MacBook Pro
Brad Bull is a private practice family therapist in Tennessee. His opening play in Wordle is “aline” and, if needed, “tours.” He is far too bothered that the word “palindrome” is not a palindrome, but he, his own therapist, and priestly friends continue to … level.
The best way to finish this dreadful year is with lavish generosity | Opinion by Mark Wingfield