Editor’s Letter

Posted on December 7, 2010 – 7:29 AM | by OldManFoster
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I got up early on January 3, 2009.  I had some magazine work to do and I rushed off in the morning to meet someone about an article, or take an Out and About photo, or… or something. I don’t actually remember.

What I do remember is that I rushed out of the house, right past a string of slightly deflated helium-filled balloons that had gotten tangled in the jasmine bush in our front yard and which were now bobbing near the sidewalk.  Whatever I was doing that morning was important enough that I ignored the balloons, figuring I’d clean them up when I got back later.  By the time I got back, the balloons were gone.

Lucky for me, Liv had found them.  Lucky, because attached to those balloons was a plastic bag containing a one hundred dollar bill.

Along with the money was a short note:

“I have been very lucky this year, and I am thankful.  I have a healthy family, a job and my needs are covered.  I hope whoever finds this needs it more than I do.  Happy New Year!  Good Luck!”

We did need it.  Running MidMo through the bucking bronco that was 2008 had depleted our checking and savings accounts, and only a judicious balancing of credit card payments kept the wheels spinning that year.  $100 could not have come at a better time.

There was also an email address, and though we initially felt awkward about writing, we did eventually write to thank our benefactor(s?) for their generosity.  We never heard back.  I thought about those balloons a lot over the following year.  What was the person –or family- like who sent them?  Were they still OK?  What if the balloons had landed in a field or a river, and had been lost or destroyed?

What if?

The act was still the same. The balloons reminded me that the act of giving is much more important than what happens afterward. The balloons reminded me to think about others, and to share with others, and most importantly, not to put too much value on what, after all, is only money.

Yes, money is important, but other things, like friends, and family, and living your life, are more important.  Whatever it was that sent me rushing out of the house that morning seemed very important at the time; now I can’t even remember what it was.   There’s a lesson there.

Last year, Liv and I decided to make ‘The Balloons’ an annual New Years Day tradition. At the end of December we picked up a couple of helium-filled balloons at the Safeway on 19th Street and let them sit on the ceiling as 2010 approached.  New Year’s Eve came and went.  On New Year’s night we each wrote a ‘good luck’ note for the finder on a ziplock bag.  We couldn’t afford $100, but we put what we could in our bags, hole-punched the corners and tied each bag to the ribbon attached to a balloon.

They sank to the floor.  We learned a valuable lesson: helium balloons can lose their buoyancy fairly quickly.  They had been much more buoyant when we had bought them.  We tied the two balloons together with just one of the bags; the balloons lazily floated toward the ceiling.

Just before midnight we went out to our back porch for the launch.   We followed the second hand on my watch, and released the ribbon at exactly 12 O’Clock. The balloons climbed slowly into the sky, silently carrying their payload of good fortune.  They drifted west, over our house, over the trees and soon disappeared in the darkness.

We’ll be setting our balloons aloft again this year.  This time we know to buy the balloons the same day so they actually go up instead of down, and finding a bit of cash to go in the bags will be a bit easier than it was last year.  Some of our friends have said that they too are going to add The Balloons to their family’s New Years Day festivities.

I like the idea.  I like that for one day a year we stop worrying about money and think instead of how to send it away to someone we don’t even know.  It’s not like sending help to Haiti, or donating at church or giving to the panhandler on the street.  The Balloons are simply a celebration of the act of giving away.

The Balloons don’t really make any sense.  They don’t really do any good.  But I don’t care.  I like them anyway.


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