Around four years ago, I was passing through a Starbucks drive-thru. It was November, typically a time of year where charitable people give more of their time and money due to the natural pull of a holiday like Thanksgiving.
A car pulled up behind me as I was paying for my coffee and I told the barista I wanted to pay for them as well.
I repeated this behavior for the better part of the holiday season because it felt like a good thing to do. Besides, in most cases, we’re talking about $3-4 to put a smile on a stranger’s face. It seemed like a no-brainer.
Several months later, I was buying less from Starbucks because I was making more coffee at home and bringing a mug with me to work.
I started looking for other ways to give a small kindness to someone unexpectedly.
It transitioned into an sporadic meal I’d buy for someone at a restaurant. Typically, someone I would see eating by themselves. I wanted no fanfare. It was more important (and special) for me to be anonymous.
Even today, if I donate to someone or something, I prefer that only the donor know. Beyond what I’m writing as I craft this article, really only my wife has known of me doing these things.
A quote I came across at some point seemed to define the intention:
“I learned to give not because I have much, but because I know exactly how it feels to have nothing.” -Anonymous
And while I’ve never been in-the-gutter poor, I’ve known what it’s like to have the deck stacked against me, living paycheck to paycheck and wondering how I would pay a bill to get by.
Thankfully, those days seem further and further in my rearview.
Mostly, I wanted to do these things because I know what it’s been like to be on the receiving end of a random act of kindness. It’s one of those feelings that you carry with you for days, if not longer.
Can anyone have too much happiness?
Maybe there is truth to a karmic effect of our behavior: the more good we do, the more good we receive. That’s my anecdotal belief at least.
And it’s why I randomly wanted to write this article in the middle of February instead of November or December when it might be more seasonally appropriate.
There is never a wrong time to give. There is no amount too small. And even if you only have a couple of dollars to toss someone’s way for a cup of coffee, it starts your day on a high note.
Several weeks ago, Marissa, Sebastian and I were at a favorite restaurant of ours having breakfast. We were under no financial strain to go there. A gentleman was sitting behind us eating breakfast by himself. Marissa and Sebastian stepped away from the table temporarily as the man was finishing his meal. In a kind British accent, he said “I have these vouchers for a free breakfast. I’d like to give these to you.”
I was understandably stunned. I don’t perform random acts of kindness while simultaneously holding my other hand out waiting for reciprocation.
The gift is to give. So, I honor that.
Nevertheless, I haven’t stopped thinking about the gesture ever since. It is part of what inspired this post.
Many times we get lost in our own relative chaos and busyness that we forget to do something small for someone unexpectedly.
It’s my hope that you’ll find more opportune times to do so as well.
And if you haven’t the financial means to do so, perhaps you have some volunteer time to offer in places of need for an extra hand or an extra shoulder to lean on.
Or maybe you’re in an emotional funk and you take this opportunity to step outside of your own mind for a few moments and feel the joy of doing something selflessly for others.
I wish I could quantify for you all the good that giving can do.
Instead, I’ll use this post as a way to inspire you to give a little bit more than you’re used to at intervals and times more frequently than you’re used to and see how it benefits your life (and someone else’s) as a result.
Below is Jackson last week at Valentine’s exercising his own demonstration of giving for the holiday.
“We Make Great People Greater”