The summer after my freshman year of college, I sent my high school a check. But it was a donation with strings. Along with the check, I sent a note that said, “Please use the enclosed check to buy the following books for the school library,” and listed several books I wished had been so readily available to me during my coming out; the only one I remember specifically was Brian McNaught’s On Being Gay, which was extraordinarily helpful to me at the age of fifteen or sixteen or whenever I read it, but there were three or four others as well.
Full of sanctimony and self-righteousness, I thought, “Well, that’ll show them. They can’t very well refuse the check, so they’ll have to buy the books.” Visions of destroying the homophobic prejudices running through every current of my high school danced in my head; I would be the savior of the new gay generation, and they would all thank me for it, except of course that they wouldn’t know who the books had come from, just that they were in the library, which made the whole thing even better, the gift being slightly higher up on Maimonides’ Ladder of Charity, so they’d just thank the universe, and me as a part of it, and I would be glad to know that I’d helped.
Which is exactly the way it would have happened if the check hadn’t bounced.