You have the unique opportunity to weigh in today on a topic of special interest to me: Whether or not I’m a total jerkface. Lest you find yourself with a preponderance of fodder for such a conversation, let’s focus on the specific ethical dilemma in which I now find myself.
A few days ago, our neighbor, a nice gent who’s made himself quite helpful to us since we moved here (and in fact it is his parents’ longtime family home that we bought), told me to come over and check out some stuff he had up in the attic. He said, “I thought you might want it for your daughter and if not I’ll just haul it to Goodwill.” That stuff included a couple toys, an old picnic basket and two books — an old dogeared copy of Cinderella and a copy of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Nothing spectacular but it was nice of him so I dutifully shlepped it across the lawn and piled it in our house, drawing a snicker from my husband who wondered why I was taking the neighbor’s junk.
Later that night I picked up the copy of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and out of habit developed at my favorite used bookshops (my husband and I are casual book collectors), I checked out the copyright page.
1957. First edition. First printing. Conservative estimate of value: a couple hundred dollars. Possible value: up to $2,500.
The neighbor clearly had no idea of the value when he gave it to me, nor did I when I took it. I’d have no intention of selling it; rather, it would just remain among our collection of prized books, which means putting it on a shelf out of range of baby peanut-butter paws Magoo. By bringing it up I risk hearing for the rest of our neighborly days, some irritating variation of “Well I did give you that book.” I’m a huge fan of taking the path of least resistance and in this case that very much seems like keeping the book, shrugging at a stroke of good luck, and saying nothing that puts our neighbor in a position of feeling like a stooge for handing off something so potentially valuable.
But on the other furry green hand, something about keeping it without at least offering him the chance to understand its worth and take it back (and recognizing that he very well may) feels a little off.
Convince me that my heart needs to grow three sizes this day…