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.

19 thoughts on “Giving”

  1. Love this Jeff. Every so often, if I’m at out breakfast, I’ll pick one person in the restaurant who is alone and looks a little down on his luck. And I’ll give money to the waitress to pay his check after I leave. And your right…it just feels good.

    1. Right, ‘cuz a person just loves being singled out as looking “a little down on his luck”. You’re quite the humanitarian!

      “And your right…it just feels good.”

      So, do you do it just to help or to make yourself feel better?

      1. Jacob, what a sad, pathetic response. I did it because I was once on my honeymoon, and lacking money, and people were INSANELY kind to the wife and I. And I haven’t forgotten that. Damn, and I thought I was a cynic …

      2. “I did it because I was once on my honeymoon, and lacking money, and people were INSANELY kind to the wife and I. And I haven’t forgotten that.”

        So, you did do it to make yourself feel better! At least, you admit it.

      3. Sure, I’m being cynical. But, there are lots of “I’s” being posted around here. “I” is probably the most used word of all of them. Gee, wonder why?

      4. Jacob, you’re writing simply. I’m quite certain one of the reasons people give is because it boosts the endorphins and makes you feel groovy. But maybe some people also give because they see someone needs help; or could be made happier.

      5. I just don’t understand your response Jacob. I didn’t announce it to the restaurant what I was doing. I quietly helped somebody out and kept it anonymous. And yeah, your damn right it felt good. What’s wrong with it?

      6. “So, do you do it just to help or to make yourself feel better?”

        Probably both. And what’s wrong with that?

  2. Right, ‘cuz a person just loves being singled out as looking “a little down on his luck”. You’re quite the humanitarian!

  3. Good for you.

    I’m an Elk, which means I get together once a week (or more) with like minded people and give my time and dollars to uplifting others in my community.

    It does give you a different perspective, often a humbling one.

    Y’know what gives me hope? In the decades since the 1960’s fraternal orders that exist to do charitable work in their communities like the Elks, Moose, etc. were on the decline. The last half-decade has seen a growth in membership, a rebound. More people looking to make a difference in their homes, that’s a hopeful thing.

  4. Just wanted to say I hope your stay in Portland was pleasurable.
    The weather here in Eugene has been pretty nice. If it was nice Portland can be a very pretty town, provided you find the time to look around.

  5. Jacob, so do you do good things because it makes you feel terrible? Instead of making assumptions about other peoples intentions on the internet, go do some good for whatever reason you think people should do good.

  6. In all fairness, Jeff is a pretty selfless guy and who the hell gives a fart why anyone does nice things?

    A lot of jerks never think about others, let alone act on any charitable feelings they may have.

  7. “And your right…it just feels good.”

    He wrote that himself. He didn’t say “the guy looked happy” or anything of the sort. He only mentioned how it made him feel.

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