To give is to live

By Kathy Hamer Beck

North Texas Catholic



Abby, about 17-years-old, once threw her shoe at the lead singer in a rock concert. It wasn’t a cultural insult, she didn’t go to jail; “and I didn’t throw it at him,” she reminds me repeatedly. “I threw it to him.

“The first time I went to ‘Austin City Limits,’” she described, “I saw Conor Oberst (her favorite musician) on the other side of a fence, and I threw my shoe over the top for him to sign.

“On the same trip I also crawled under the stage after he played, and got him to autograph a record.”

Abby and I share an appreciation for music, just as Julie, Meredith, and I share a fondness for figure skating. Once, in an unplanned encounter at Colorado Springs’ Broadmoor ice rink, I requested an Olympic gold-medalist to sign a skate blade.

Christopher Dean, Olympic ice dancer, was then a coach, and dourly leaving the rink as we arrived. I ran to our car for a skating blade he could sign, and caught up to him.

I didn’t throw it at him or to him, although I am somewhat certain he wished for a boot to toss at me. He was bothered, simply stopping for an autograph. I tried complimenting him on his “perfect score at the 1980 Olympics!” hoping to captivate him, or at least make him not hate me.

But there was only silence. “That was the 1984 Olympics,” he then corrected, expressionlessly.

“Sorry, Mr. Dean,” I thought silently. “You see, I gave birth to a baby in each of those winter Olympic seasons. So I’m lucky I saw you skate at all.” I left the rink that day with an autographed skate blade and absolutely no self-respect.

Yesterday I texted Abby: “Remember the time you and I met the main characters from the Broadway production of Rent?” “Which time?” she replied. “Are you thinking about when we met the original Mark and Roger?” They were the ones in the first Broadway cast but we really met them at a production in Seattle. 

“YES!” I wrote back in all caps. “It was Seattle! There was a semi-circle of people, standing behind a red velvet rope. You talked to them, I hugged them, and we all got a picture!”

“Best day ever?” I asked Abby. “Yup.”

Last week, Larry and I went to a steakhouse for dinner. Casually glancing through the menu, I noticed Larry was occupied with the booth across from us. He gestured with his head toward the occupant: a small woman, about our age, head lowered, sipping wine.

“Talk to that woman,” Larry said. “Me? Talk to her? I can’t spontaneously converse with someone I don’t know.”

(Ironic reminder to self: Christopher Dean and the original Broadway cast of Rent.)

Our salads came and Larry continued to watch the woman. “Just say, ‘Don’t I know you?’” Larry suggested. My husband looked at me and I was hooked.

I caught the woman’s eye, and said, “You look familiar. Have we met?”

“I have been thinking the same thing,” she said. “Well,” I guessed, “How about at TCU?” “No,” she said. “The Catholic Diocese?” “No.”

Extending my hand, “I am Kathy,” I said.

“I am Jane. I have not slept in 40 hours. My husband is in the hospital and very ill. Today is the first time he has improved. The hospital did not have food service, so I came here for dinner.”

I asked her if she would sit with us, but she declined, having nearly finished.

When our meals came I learned that Larry had paid her check. I was touched, but none so much as a few minutes later when Jane slipped into our booth, next to me, wearing a brilliant, rejuvenated smile. She put her arm around me, and introduced herself to Larry.

“I can’t find the words,” Jane said, “to express my gratitude. No one has extended a hand to me as you have. My husband is quite seriously ill.”

“Is he getting better?” I asked. “Yes,” she said. “Will he get well?” I asked. “No,” she said.

“I will pray for you both,” I said. 

As we said goodbye, Jane thanked Larry tenderly for his gift.

He choked up as he shook her hand, “The pleasure was ours.”

In this world there are talented entertainers, who give, and their fans, who receive. Without one or the other a rich experience cannot occur.

The same thing applies to those who approach us in need. If we recognize the need and act on it, two souls benefit. Jane’s big smile was a gift back to us.

And the ripple goes on.

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Kathy Cribari Hamber Beck's column has been recognized repeatedly by the Catholic Press Association. For more information about her book, Me and the Chickens, visit


Abby, about 17-years-old, once threw her shoe at the lead singer in a rock concert. It wasn’t a cultural insult, she didn’t go to jail; “and I didn’t throw it at him,” she reminds me repeatedly. “I threw it to him.