choreographer Amy Siewert

How To Let Go Of What’s Not Really Yours

Stumbling on a windfall — and then giving it away

Dancer and choreographer Amy Siewert was walking through the sometimes sketchy Mission District in San Francisco recently when she looked down to see a couple of folded up bills on the street. “The first thing I did was pick it up and put it on the car that was parked there,” she told Good Turns. “I thought, This will make someone’s day.”

Her second thought, though, was, “Maybe this can make my day.” So she picked up the cash again and peeled off a one-dollar bill, another one-dollar bill, then a fifty, and finally a hundred. “I was completely shocked at the amount,” she recalls. “My first thought was, I’m going to pay someone to come in and clean the house, this is going to be amazing.”

“It made me think really hard about how we cling to things that aren’t really ours.”

She quickly came up with a less selfish plan, though: she would give $50 to Planned Parenthood, $50 to the ACLU, and keep $50 for herself. “I donate to those organizations anyway,” she says, “but I had also been at the ACLU that week because of an arts project I’m doing, and they were so generous with their time and resources and trying to find a connection between art and social justice, that I was just floored.”

But when she went to the ACLU Web site to donate, she accidentally gave them $75 instead of $50. If she then gave Planned Parenthood the same, she’d only have $2 left for herself. “For a second, I felt almost cheated,” she says. “But then I thought, That’s not your money, let it go. It was such a check to me. It made me think really hard about how we cling to things that aren’t really ours, or that we don’t have any grand right to.”

“My sincerest hope is that whoever dropped it didn’t really need it,” Siewert says. “I hope it was an inconvenience, and not, How am I going to make the rent this month?”

In the end, Siewert split the money between her two charities of choice, and satisfied herself with the $2 dividend. “My intention was to buy a cup of coffee,” she says, “but as someone pointed out, where do you get a cup of coffee for two dollars?”

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