Write By Your Side

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about the bigheartedness of writers, and it likely won’t be the last. In a field where you’d expect cutthroat competitiveness, all of us vying for the same freelance jobs, you get instead a special brand of camaraderie. We pass around work leads, we share industry news, we praise one’s magazine feature or another’s book release.

Oh, and in special cases we feed each other.

Carey Rutherford, in Calgary, is a self-employed single dad dealing with rent and grocery bills while establishing himself as a writer. These are lean times and, like almost 900,000 other Canadians, he relates more than one visit to the local food bank to keep the pantry filled.

Carey also likes visiting with other writers, so he recently hosted a meeting of a local group in the modest apartment he shares with his daughter. (Yes, it was an important opportunity to network with colleagues. It also meant potluck leftovers.)

Carey was astounded when the group president arrived early carrying not just potluck dishes for the meeting, but also a large box of non-perishable food items for the host. Her own family of four knew Carey was struggling and had decided to help.

“I was so touched!” Carey says, adding that this particular donor of digestibles has already demonstrated her generosity by supporting and encouraging his writing business.

Furthermore, the benefactor in question just happens to be Andrea Tombrowski, co-author (along with husband Peter) of Urban Camping: A Testament to Living Without a Vehicle. Which means, you guessed it, she doesn’t own a car. The food hamper for Carey involved a one-hour round-trip to the grocery store, on foot, pushing a jogging stroller. And that was just the start. Says Carey: “The care package for me, the foods purchased for the meeting, and herself, were all transported from one side of Calgary’s newly descended winter landscape to the other on public transit!”

Andrea calls her act a “humble little deed” and told me, “When someone says they’re using the food bank, you listen – and hopefully respond in a meaningful way.” She was relieved that Carey was gracious, not offended.

Far from it. He virtually shouted out his grocery gratitude on a writers’ message board where many would see it: “I would like to suggest loud, enthusiastic applause for our thoughtful member,” he wrote. “You rule!”

“Our family is not financially well off, by any means,” says Andrea. “We rent a small apartment and maintain a small footprint. The point is to give from what you have, and not wait until you are ‘better off’… Use the opportunities to be of service to your fellow man now.”

You know they say nice guys finish last? Maybe that’s because they carried a food hamper on foot. Carey’s right. Do-gooders do rule.

Carey Rutherford working at his desk

Carey Rutherford hard at work: There’s no Plants vs. Zombies going on here. All the more reason to hire this guy.

7 responses to “Write By Your Side

  1. Oh Lisa – what a wonderful story! And it bears out everything I know about writers in general and PWAC members in particular. I recently hosted the PWAC Montreal Christmas party, and was touched at how many people arrived with a little something for the hostess as well as a home-cooked dish for the communal table.

    I don’t have a car either – which is not a big deal in Montreal, where I live. The story of Andrea and Carey reinforces my conviction that we all need to leave a small footprint and help each other. Bravo all round!

  2. I echo what Kathe (and you) said about the generosity of writers, especially PWACers. I also admire you so much, Lisa, for finding and sharing these stories. I read your post to my writing group and told them about you and your Good Deeds blog. (They copied the address and may become regular readers.) Cheers!

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, Kathe! I’m glad you too have firsthand experience with the generosity of writerly types. My theory is that in our line of work, we’re so isolated for so much of the day, that we love any opportunity to connect… and to smile!

  4. Thank you so much, Christine! Regular readers are always welcome, and so are lovely comments like yours.

  5. Very heartwarming. I first read about it on PWAC-biz. I also live precariously in the financial area but my son is grown up and I don’t have the child-rearing responsibility anymore. In fact, he and his girlfriend help out where they can best do so which means in the technical area for my son. Thanks to him I have a working wireless telephone.
    I think the bottom line is we all need to help others as best as we can and often that is in unconventional ways as opposed to writing a cheque for a charity. I like your Random Kindness idea and blog and it has helped me think when I leave the house to be open to any way I can provide a random act of kindness. Or even when home in my office via phone or email.

    Merry Christmas

    Sharon Crawford
    Writer/Editor, Instructor and PWAC member too

  6. Thanks for joining the conversation, Sharon. I agree that helping is not always about handing over money. Even the most cash-strapped of us can make a big difference to others. I’m also thrilled to hear that you’re committing random acts of kindness in your travels! May it circle back on you!

  7. Pingback: Hearts in the Write Place | 50 Good Deeds

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