So late last year a friend of mine, Chris Dessi, asked me to read a rough draft of a book he’d written about social media. The text discussed everything from Twitter to Facebook to forcing yourself to either adapt or fade away.
One nugget, however, struck me most. Chris’ father is currently facing a horrible fight with ALS. In his honor, Chris decided to give a gift a day for, I believe, 64 days (his dad’s age). The gifts could range from tiny to enormous—paying a stranger’s subway fare, purchasing books for a classroom, etc. When I told the wife of this, she was impressed. Actually, beyond impressed—inspired.
Hence, we stole Chris’ idea and adapted it. In our household, the wife, two kids and I are committed to doing a good deed every week for the entire year (of course, we can do as many good deeds as we want a week. But the minimum is one). The primary reason is to teach our children (ages 8 and 5) lessons on decency and service and helping others and appreciating what they have. Thus far, the results have been excellent. In no particular order, my children have: Walked the neighborhood picking up trash, volunteered in a senior center, brought newspapers to front doors, baked for our elderly neighbor, etc … etc. The lessons are, to be honest, slow going. Kids tend to think selfishly, and the task is to break that mindset. Gradually, it seems to be working.
Personally, I love it. As Chris rightly noted in his book, there’s something to be said for helping someone out; for giving to a perfect stranger; for trying to make a difference in someone’s life. Even a small difference.
Which leads to this evening …
A few hours ago I boarded an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland to Los Angeles. Sitting next to me was a young couple from a tiny town, Tillamook, Oregon. Ryan works at a mill, Ondria works at the local beef jerky factory (she even gave me a pack of Werner Teriyaki Beef Jerky for the wife, who loves the stuff). We spoke at length: The two are on their honeymoon—a couple of weeks in Australia. They had a small, inexpensive wedding in October, in order to have funds for the trip. They’ve been watching their money, eating on the cheap, saving up for their adventure.
They also happened to have a four-hour layover at LAX.
Hence, after we all got off the plane I tapped the guy on the shoulder. “Do me a favor and open your hand,” I said. He did, thinking I was about to shake it. Instead, I placed some money in his palm and said, “You’re on your honeymoon, stuck in an airport. Go have a nice meal.” Then I walked off, as did they.
Here’s the thing—and it’s i-m-p-o-r-t-a-n-t for me to say. I’m not writing this post to get any kudos or pats on the back. There are many, many, many, many, many people who put my generosity and charity to shame. What I can say, however, is that there’s something remarkably powerful and uplifting in helping someone else. And, oddly, especially a stranger. I try to put myself in their shoes, and how’d it feel to have a stranger commit an act of kindness, simply to be kind.
Anyhow, that’s the lesson the wife and I are trying to instill in our kids. That, while material items are often nice, they pale in comparison to the merits of giving.