Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On Memory, Commemoration, and Charity

     I was treated, dear reader, to our students teaching the class last Friday.  At Dr. Rivers's inspired suggestion, students fanned out around our campus, and beyond, looking for memoria.  What is a memoria, you ask?  It is some object that remembers someone or some charitable gift, such as a plaque on the wall, or a statue, or what is popular these days: bricks in a walkway.  At my inspired suggestion, students picked medieval-themed names and then quite thoughtfully reflected on what the memoria they found tell us about charity in our own day.  Most argued that memoria in our own day are quite distinct from memoria in the medieval period, since they are not about getting prayers from monks to get out of purgatory and, in fact, there is not much of a counter-gift for the charitable gift.  Most students said that at most, the counter-gift is being remembered.  One student noted that the counter-gift might be advertising, especially in the case of our College of Business lobby. 
     I am still not so sure there is no counter-gift.  If I were to pay for a brick in a walkway, do I get nothing out of that besides being remembered?  Let me try to think what else that brings me.  Status in my community?  Very literally a near permanent place (the walkway) in my community?  Influence?  A sense of belonging?  I am brainstorming here.  What do you think, reader?  Is there a counter-gift for charitable donations?  As NPR constantly tells me these days, they are offering counter-gifts from coffee mugs to river cruises for donations to them.

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