Gold in My Pocket: A Circle of Hands That Lifts Me Up

She wasn’t going to say it out loud, not at first. But finally, Alice Elliott had to admit what she wanted most for her film, THE COLLECTOR OF BEDFORD STREET: to win an Academy Award. At the time, Alice was speaking with members of a support group. She was in the middle of a marketing campaign for the film, and she really wanted to make sure that she did everything she could to make it a success.

After hearing Alice’s confession, her friends in the group immediately chimed in with all kinds of advice about how to obtain an Oscar nomination for the 20-minute documentary short — something it clearly deserved. And, as it turned out, the Academy was so taken with the film that it did get that nomination.

I was asked to join the support group just after Alice’s film was nominated. And I lived vicariously through my new friend, waiting with bated breath during the Oscar’s ceremony to find out if she’d won.

In case you haven’t seen BEDFORD STREET, it chronicles the life of a charming man that Alice met in Greenwich Village, where she lives. Before his passing, Larry Selman was a community activist and fundraiser who had an intellectual disability. Despite that challenge and dire financial straits, Larry collected thousands of dollars for charities every year by hitting up people on the streets for money. It was pretty hard to turn him down, as the film shows.

In the end, it didn’t matter all that much when Alice didn’t win the Oscar. She and I exchanged emails today, and she wrote me the following: “Two great things happened at the nominees luncheon. One, the president of the Academy said we had all won by being nominated, and I realized there were going to be a lot of more nominees than winners, and that was okay.”

Alice’s experience is now legendary among the members of our support group. While eventually we all went our separate ways, I cannot say enough about the experience of being part of it – and another support group that I joined later on.

There are all sorts of reasons to join a support group or start one of your own. The groups I’ve been part of include a few friends who meet every single month to talk about what they’ve accomplished and what their goals are moving forward. Each person gets 20 minutes to speak, with a five-minute bonus “bump.”

As a creative writer and journalist working on her own, I use support groups as a sort of board of directors. It’s a business meeting, and we all write a document to be distributed before each meeting, listing down what we’ve done and what we want to do moving forward.

Sometimes when I’ve sat down to write that list, I’ve thought “Geesh. I don’t think I’ve done much of anything over the last month.” But then I start remembering, and it usually turns out that I’ve accomplished so much more than I gave myself credit for. So the mere act of writing things down can make me feel a lot better, especially when the group congratulates me for what I’ve done.

But also, the members of the group have my back in other ways. They remember when I started writing my sci-fi cyberpunk novel, THE JUICE. They were there for me, every step of the way, and celebrated with me on the day that it was published, almost two months ago. They’ve also given me countless pieces of advice about how I can go about solving certain puzzles. Nothing is too small or personal. When I needed a new dentist, those ladies had my back.

Beyond that, they also help me see the elephant in the room – things I really want that I haven’t begun to articulate yet, like Alice with her Oscar dream.

As I write this, my apartment is filled with gifts from various circles of friends who are expressing their sympathy as I mourn the recent passing of my husband, David. Another type of support group, specific to creative writing, sent me the most thoughtful, unique series of gifts that feel like a virtual embrace: teas, a comforter, a special heating pad, to name but a few items. Other friends whom I haven’t spoken with in a long time, including Alice, got in touch with me to express their sorrow. I hadn’t anticipated such a wide ripple effect of love and caring.

As Tennessee Williams wrote in one of David’s favorite plays, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Yes, that’s true. But my circle of friends’ support, whether expressed in monthly meetings or less structured moments, is like gold in my pocket.

Leave a Comment