Hello SOTGC community,
We all get stressed out from the cares of life – a demanding job, responsibilities in the home, relatives and friends who depend on you, the guilt of not sticking to a diet or exercise routine – you name it. I have found that happiness comes from doing good for others. Allow me to share a story.
I recall one particularly cold winter in Washington, D.C. in the late 90’s. The hour and a half commute was absolutely miserable. Living in the suburbs, I had to drive to the commuter train stop 10 miles away which took me to Union Station where I hopped on the Metrorail and then walked two and a half blocks to my office. As I reached the top of the escalator, I put my hat and gloves back on (the train was crowded and warm) in preparation for the blast of cold air as I started my walk. Leaning against the exit wall was a man, standing tall and not shivering, though he had on less outerwear than I did. His skin looked beaten by the cold and his hands taut and frozen. Being homeless had toughened him. As I exited the station, a particular street vendor caught my eye. He was selling hats, scarves and gloves – leather, knit of all kinds. His stand was directly across from the shop where I got my morning pastry and hot tea.
Feeling guilty for grumbling in my head about the cold after having just passed a homeless man who would spend the entire day outside, I stopped at the hat stand. “How much?” I asked, holding up a pair of men’s gloves. “All leather gloves, ten dollars. All knits, six dollars,” the man replied. I bought the gloves and a knit hat – sixteen dollars. That was easy. I cannot explain the joy I had when the homeless man happily received my gift. William was his name. As I walked away, I became excited about an idea that just sparked. I went back to the vendor and asked, “how much would you discount your prices if I bought several items?” He looked curious (I suspect having seen me deliver the gift just a few feet away) and replied, “Well, it all depends on how many you’re gonna buy.” Now I was thinking about getting my co-workers in on the gift-giving and was sure I could raise some funds – even though the holidays had just passed. “How about I spend $100 with you and you give me the items for $5 each?” He smiled and said, “You come back and we’ll work something out.”
Suddenly, the air felt warmer and those two blocks to the office seemed like just a few short steps. I couldn’t get off the elevator fast enough. I actually had to calm myself! As I went through my morning routine, I laid out my plan and my spiel for collecting the money. By lunchtime, I was visiting co-workers around the office, picking up money in response to my email. A co-worker went with me to purchase the goods and help distribute them. We stuffed the gloves, scarves and hats (five bucks a piece!) into the merchant bags and began walking the block and the nearby park. It didn’t take long for our bags to empty. We grabbed lunch and headed back to the office.
I found that I had late responders to my email. I collected more money later that day and the next morning. When lunchtime rolled around again, I had $300! The vendor was happy to see me again – with twice as much cash as the day before. He threw in a few more items for free and gave me a big thumbs up. A different co-worker was with me this time as we passed out the goodies.
The office was buzzing and everyone who contributed seemed happy to hear our stories when we returned. The following year, the unofficial campaign was even larger and more organized. We also gave out cups of hot coffee. And William got a job with the hat vendor – true story!
What inspires you to give and to do for others? Although Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 10-16) has just passed, you can still act. Good deeds are welcomed year round. Join the kindness movement that 23 countries now participate in. If you don’t have one already, encourage your workplace to start a corporate responsibility program for organized giving. As an individual, there are endless things you can do to be kind. Give a hand to an elderly neighbor. Deliver cookies to your closest firehouse. Send thank you notes to your children’s teachers and principle. Pay the cab fare for a stranger. Make your own list. Get busy and get happy!