Giving Back

Giving Back

by Yvonne Healy. ©Yvonne Healy, 2006. All rights reserved.
Michigan Humanities News, Michigan Humanities Council, MI 2006.

– – – – –

The front door banged, startling the woman. Each day her husband, Liam, foraged for food. Sometimes dinner was rabbit; other days it was only porridge.

“All I found. May be useless. No key for the lock.” He dragged a wooden box into the bare room.
Nora offered a knife and an iron pot.

“Break it.” The lid swung open revealing emptiness. The disheartened man turned away, dropping the pot into the box.

“My only pot!” Nora reached into the box. “H-h-h-ere’s one. And two?” She held up one pot her left hand and a second pot in her right.

“H-h-ow?” Liam sputtered.

“You turned.” Nora retraced her husband’s actions. “Dropped the pot, and…” Two heads leaned over the box. Inside were two pots. Again and again, they tossed in one pot and pulled out two until pots towered beside the box.

“Tomorrow I’ll sell those pots.”

The next day, the door banged, startling the woman.

“All I found.” Liam poured silver coins into Nora’s lap.

The couple waltzed around the box. Abruptly Nora stopped. She slapped her forehead. She tossed one silver coin into the box. Liam froze. He watched his wife reach into the box. She pulled out one silver coin, reached again, and flashed a second coin. Till daybreak, coins thudded on wood, were retrieved, thrown again or clinked against others in a leather bag. This lucky couple had discovered that giving back doubles our treasure.


Until 2005, I gave tithes to various non-profits, but never to the Michigan Humanities Council. I figured that my responsibility to Michigan’s culture lay in paying taxes, and giving my best as a performer, residency artist, and writer.

When I discovered this folktale, I realized that the Council is our wonderful box. As the tax pie shrinks, more responsibility falls on the people who enjoy Council programs. A thriving culture requires that the arts nourish more than the elite. Outside of large population centers, Michigan offers a wealth of natural beauty; but limited professional arts programs exist without MHC support.
So I began returning a silver coin here, a gold coin there. My donations doubled my treasure. I continue to enjoy Touring Arts Programs in the audience and on stage. Additionally, I help cultivate audiences who will enjoy, value and support the arts in the future.

Trouble arrives when nothing is put back. Or when what goes back into the box is undesirable. At least that’s what Nora discovered when her box was visited by a skunk.

Back to All Articles