Quid Pro Quo, Clarice

Ahhh…that Dr. Lecter always did drive a hard bargain.

Being the academic sophisticate that the good Doctor was, the screen writer of Silence of the Lambs was probably wise to use “Quid pro quo” as opposed to something a little more juvenile…like, “Hey girl!  I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.”

It doesn’t have the same eerie ring to it.

But the meaning is the same.  That phrase is defined as “something that is given or taken in exchange for something else.”

It’s a formula that we have come to expect throughout our lives, lest we continue to give and give and give and be utterly disappointed when we’re left feeling empty…having never received anything in return.

And so we’re shocked and amazed when we come across a situation of genuine kindness every now and then.    Or we witness a true act of generosity: firemen sprinting into a burning building; a passerby handing out sandwiches to homeless folks; soldiers running into battle.

These people give without ever expecting anything in return.


I came across a Baltimore Sun article the other day…it’s almost a year old at this point.  But it brought to life this idea of…as the article states…”the quo without the quid.”

If you enjoy reading, have lived in Baltimore for a number of years, and much like the city itself, are a little “off,” you have probably heard of a place called The Book Thing.  In an alley in north Baltimore, The Book Thing has given away free books for years…it has never run out.  Amazing…all they do is give and give and give…without ever expecting payment in return for their hundreds of thousands of books.  And yet, it has never gone empty.

People come from all over the city to donate their old volumes.


About a year ago, a fire devastated The Book Thing….wiped about an estimated 200,000 books.  Without a reliable source of revenue….things didn’t look good.  They still don’t.  The guy who runs it knows about Baltimore and about books.  Not about building codes, zoning restrictions, and interior design.  Hell, they didn’t even have a librarian or a clerk…much less a degree in architecture.

What they did have was a philosophy founded on giving.  And residents started to give back.  A local firm is redesigning the interior for free.  A GoFundMe site has surpassed it’s goal.

And every weekend for the foreseeable future (at least, according to their website), they are taking donations and looking for volunteers to help get The Book Thing back on its feet.

So if you’re feeling especially generous this weekend…round up your old copies of “How To Avoid Huge Ships” and haul them down to The Book Thing.  Months from now, someone out on the Chesapeake Bay in their dinghy might be very glad that you did.

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”  

―     Groucho Marx


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