Blind Strike

{July 29, 2007}   On Generosity

At the 2006 AWP writers’ conference in Austin, Sandra Cisneros said she considered community service the mark of a truly generous person. Her words stuck with me. What have I done lately to give back? I asked myself, and the answer was, not much, friend. Not much at all.

Now that I have graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage MFA program, one goal is to consistently dedicate a portion of my time to community service. The first opportunity to land in my lap was a Mountainview-based nonprofit, The Mother Lawrence Foundation. ML provides aid such as food, cheap housing, and religious services. Although I don’t agree with all ML’s religious views, this woman’s foundation is doing good work to revitalize a low-income Anchorage community. I’ve spent the morning researching grant opportunitites and nonprofit development resources for ML. It’s not much, but it still feels good. I have always hoped to leave behind a positive legacy. This didn’t work out so well with the Department of Creative Writing and Literary Arts, which is moving to the low-residency model, thus erasing the department-level student advocacy organization I helped found. The new university-wide Graduate Student Association (modeled in large part after the Creative Writing organization) has fared much better, having given out $8,000 in student grants last year, enhanced graduate student library privileges, and (so I hear) secured health care coverage for University of Alaska Anchorage TA’s and RA’s. I received leadership honors from the school for my participation in the GSA, but in my heart I do not believe this was “community service” of the kind Cisneros was talking about.

 With a week to go in Alaska, I’m thinking it isn’t too late to reach out directly to the community, and be a little generous outside the university bubble.


I am an Iranian translator and translator of Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street.your weblog is very nice and I feel lucky to find it.

hooray! sounds like a wonderful project to undertake. art and compassion should be linked, even if obliquely. i had a whole tretise, but god knows where it is: there are things in the rubble that are more beautiful than what’s found in the mall — wherever the mall is, the marketplace of things to buy. Something about the PROCESS of CREATING art defies commerce (even if the product doesn’t) and i think the same about the PROCESS of creating social change. It’s one of the simplest and most holy things to do with one’s limited time on the earth. in my humble opinion. Helping others, and being a seer…plus learning how to be less selfish. And pretty much most of us with any resources at all are pretty selfish here at the end of the empire. well, again i speak for myself. i like the idea of service to others being a responsibility, rather than a gift: what should be part of the basic definition of a human being — someone who helps others…. okay, that’s enough out of me. 🙂

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