Martha Graham: The Memory of Generosity

Martha Graham, in 1973. Photographer uncredited.

New York City

There was so much lack in my life--except for the time in the studio, on the stage, or in conversation with fellow dancers: other people who were so committed to their work. We all went without food; we all were without good clothes or comfortable places to live. You can endure this for a time, and you can deceive yourself into believing that it isn't as bad as it truly is. I remember receiving a batch of groceries from the mother of a friend. She felt I was starving to death: She was too kind to turn away and not do something about my obvious lack. There was so much food--more than I had seen in a very long time. And I remember some of it began to go bad, and I mourned that food as I would a death or the long absence of a friend. What I was mourning was the vanishing memory--the evidence--of an act of kindness in a sort of desert of possession, of comfort. I began to eat all of the food, even the things I didn't particularly care for, because it was now an homage to this kind woman, to her faith that I should live. Some burn candles--that is fine; that is good. I try to do whatever I can to keep the memory of generosity alive, because I am then reminded to return the favor, to look out for others. There are so many in the world who need us to see their work, to acknowledge it, but there are just as many--more, actually--who need to be fed and comforted.

From Artistic Suicide
© 2013 James Grissom


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