02 January 2008

Pay It Forward

Not long ago at The Velvet Prison, an announcement was posted about how the company was joining in on the 19th Annual New York Cares Winter Coat Drive.

So I went to my closet and started surveying all my coats, and I came across the one you see to the left, there. It's my overcoat. It's been my overcoat for probably twenty years. I hadn't stopped to think about that fact until I really looked at it.

Twenty years ago – maybe more – my family was, if not exactly poor, then working hard at making ends meet. And my mom, who was, at the time, the secretary at the rectory of our church, happened to be there when they were sorting through donations for a coat drive.

She came across this coat. It had been donated, clearly, by a pilot who worked for what was then USAirways. It was part of his uniform, but despite that was a pretty cool coat. Brown herringbone tweed, lined with silk-like polyester, warm and snug. Hefty. All in all a great all purpose winter coat for a kid that fancied himself an up-and-coming actor.

So she ripped it off and brought it home to me.

I've loved that coat – and gotten copious compliments on it – for years.

But as I stood there staring into my closet, I realized: Twenty years. I'm about ready for a new coat. The days are gone when every single piece of clothing has to be horded and cared for because I just plain don't make enough money for frivolous purchases like, oh, say, warm winter coats.

Maybe, I thought to myself, its time for karma to carry that coat to the next person who needs it. It was, after all, still in really good shape. Except for a tear in the inside lining, that coat still looked as good as the day my mom had brought it home. No fraying, no abuse.

So I said goodbye to a coat that had served me ridiculously well for twenty years. And I did so with an unexpected sense of satisfaction. It felt like fate, really. Not only was I helping someone a little less fortunate, but I was doing so in a way that seemed pre-ordained. It was as if that coat had come into my life when I needed it, and now it was time for it to move on to the next person.

So, thanks, Mr. Coat. You kept me warm through some pretty wonderful – and pretty bitter – times. I'll miss you, but I'll take a little comfort in knowing that you'll probably give a good twenty years service to someone else. At least I hope you will.

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