Thursday, May 13, 2010
Last week, a big box appeared on the doorstep. It wasn’t my birthday, and I wasn’t aware of having ordered anything. Somewhat puzzled, I looked at the address label, and found that it had been sent by a business that sells material related to my profession. I didn’t have time to open the package until the evening, and was greatly surprised to find a sizable gift basket with edible goodies, quality foods, inviting and quite appealing to my sweet tooth.
The only connection I was able to make between these things and my profession was that I have to feed myself in order to play the piano and teach, but it still seemed rather far fetched.
For more than 20 years, I taught at community music schools in Germany. I was employed by the community, holding a public position. Accepting anything like this would have been understood as preferential treatment and could have gotten me fired. Now, I teach privately, and could care less - except that accepting the gift just didn’t feel right.
The end of the school year is a busy time, I had a million things to do already, let alone make additional decisions. For the time being, I put the gift basket on the dresser in the bedroom - the only place where it fit without being in the way. In between tasks, tried to come up with an idea what to do with it: provide the snacks for a house concert a friend is hosting this week - give it to a homeless person at Port Authority the next time I go into the city - share it with the people from my volunteer shift at the Open Center...
Every option felt awkward, uncomfortable and somehow beside the point. Tuesday morning, I put the gift back in the box, got on my bike, made a trip to the post office, and returned the package to the sender. Thanking the business for their generosity, I explained that I simply didn’t feel comfortable accepting a personal gift from a business connection.