Disclaimer: There is a lot of “I,” “me,” and “my” in this post. That fact makes me uncomfortable, but people have asked why I am spending so much energy getting a little $1000 gift together for someone I may not even know. Here is my response. And, maybe someone out there will find an I statement here that resonates. Maybe you will do new nice things for others, not because of me, but because something in my story clicks with your story and reminds you that you too are at your best when you’re helping make things better for someone else. More than anything else, that is what The Dollar Endeavor is all about. For now, we’re building community around $1000 for student loan debt relief, we’re putting in little bits and pieces of our own resources knowing that someone out there will benefit from the combined generosity. As an individual contributor, you may or may not receive the monetary gift once we have reached our goal, but there is a benefit nonetheless.
And now, 10 Reasons Why I Give:
1. Because I love to see people smile
I used to work in a coffee shop. For six months, I worked mornings, which if you know me, was a recipe for disaster and resulted in multiple probationary periods. I would stay up late doing fun things, and then miss my alarm in the wee hours of the morning, eventually waking up to my disgruntled manager calling to tell me that a slightly less disgruntled customer had called the company to report that the shop wasn’t open when it was supposed to be. I would fly out of bed, don my khaki’s and white button down ($5 donation on behalf of the first person who can suitably explain to me who decided that a white shirt would be smart attire for a harried coffee slinger?!), stuff my hair in a poor excuse for a pony tail and speed down the hill, two miles to the shop. Then I would spend the next three weeks doing penance for my poor sleep discipline. Why did I keep working mornings?*** Because a lot of people hate mornings, but coffee and an encouraging word, and especially a sympathetic smile really seemed to impact my customers’ chances of daily success and progress. Numerous customers would come in throughout the day and week to continue our conversations, to update me on their shockingly terrible date the night before, to show me “that photography portfolio I’ve been telling you about,” and to let me know that the empathic smile I shared the day before helped snap them out of their funk. We laughed a lot, my customers and I (much like my therapy clients and I do now). Over time, they taught me that getting them off to a good start, helping them exercise their smile muscles first thing in the morning, learning their names and their drink preferences, and reading between the lines when their words said, “good morning, I’m doing great,” but their eyes said otherwise and then responding with kindness and concern, well doing those things had strong, positive personal repercussions. Finding people’s smile triggers when I was 23, well, it gave me energy. At 41, nothing much has changed.
***I did eventually move to a midday into evening shift. My morning-frowner focus morphed into more of a midday slump-frowner focus, and I managed to stay out of trouble and off probation.
Talking Points: Explore your less-than-ideal work experiences, and identify what you learned about your higher self through them. Take a small action today based on your discovery.
2. Because I am grateful
I have received so much kindness and help in my life. I aim to give in full consciousness of what I have received. I am not great at this one yet, but rather a work in progress.
Talking Points: What are you grateful for, and how can you pay it forward? (Today is a great day to make a move!)
3. Because giving others relief from stress helps me breathe
That is a lot of what drives my initiation of this first giving/sharing/kindness campaign. One day I was thinking about the fact that I have a ginormous student loan about to come into repayment, and then two more that will increase after the first of the year (2015). I think about the monthly (quarterly?) statements I received all through my many stints in university, telling me that if I wanted to make interest-only payments while still in school, it would ultimately help my situation significantly. I never made those interest payments because I never seemed to have the extra $50, $100, or $200 dollars. Frankly, I’m sure I was also living out my I’ll-cross-that-bridge-when-I-come-to-it approach to all things money-related. So here I am, years later, out of school (hopefully temporarily–I’m addicted to school and ready for a fix), and I’ve reached that very large, very intimidating bridge. I imagine it as a frighteningly old, quickly deteriorating rope bridge. It is suspended over strangely wide, ice-cold, boulder-filled, fast-flowing river–you know the one: there’s a 200 foot waterfall just around the bend; if the bridge breaks, you’re done for. So anyway, In my efforts to find ways to help others even though my own bank accounts are waning, I thought about the stress associated with my own student loan debt, and I realized that I know many others in the same boat, and thus began an effort to join little, non stress-causing forces with as many others as possible to do something nice and stress relieving for someone else.
We all have things that make us tick. For me, I know I am living out part of my purpose when I give direct and intentional acts of kindness and when others benefit, even if only in small ways, from the process. With this knowledge, I understand that I have to be mindful of the way I am giving in order to avoid the possibility of doing more harm than good. This is another area that I struggle to gain mastery over. It is my hope that this current Dollar Endeavor where we put our little individual dollars toward a bigger gift for someone will turn out to be a pure kindness done from many people’s pure and mindful intentions.
Talking Points: What are the things you do that intensify your sense of being “alive?” Identify one or more ways to apply that understanding to the following areas of your life: Your personal/alone time, your interpersonal relationships, your professional life, your recreational time, & as your choose new experiences moving forward.
4. Because I have to
I get depressed when I’m not reaching out to others. What more can I say?
Talking Points: How do you know and not know when you are not living at your highest and best? (To help with this process, I recommend developing a personal vision statement using a source like Personal Leadership or Steve Pavlina’s Personal Development for Smart People Podcast on recognizing your purpose.
5. Because giving is a way to build community
I can’t help it, I love seeing people sharpened and even reinvented through the establishment of new communities. I just keep thinking, what better way to join focus, forces and creative efforts than around the subject of giving?!
Talking Points: If you were to become an ongoing, active member of The Dollar Endeavor community, what ideas do you have for joining little forces to help other individuals, families or organizations?
6. Because I work with hurting people every day
I work as a Therapist in a community mental health agency. While the needs there are great (and never ending), my hands are tied as to the kinds of kindnesses I can offer. The Dollar Endeavor helps balance for those limitations.
Talking Points: What parts of your nature are not currently given voice in your professional life? How do you (or can you) actively engage those needs and ideas?
7. Because I am inspired by others who get inspired and take risks to make things happen
I have a million friends and acquaintances who are doing great things every day simply because they were inspired and willing to take risks. In my eyes, they are successful simply because they take action and make change for themselves. That’s a bandwagon I want to ride!
Talking Points: What characteristics do you admire in others and want to see more of in yourself? What concrete action can you take today, tomorrow, next month and next year to grow yourself in those areas?
8. Because people need to know they’re not alone
Isolation sucks. Being in debt bites. And being isolated in financial hardship has a way of depressing and even paralyzing a person. Finding relief on your own is absolutely rewarding and relieving, but having people join together to do something kind for you, to offer relief and community adds a whole new dimension to the lives of everyone involved. The more authentic and loving connections we can make in this life, the richer and more substantial we become.
Talking Points: Can you see areas in your own life or the lives of others you see on a regular basis where isolation is an issue? What can you offer to bring relief? What could you ask for to bring relief?
9. Because isolation sucks
Yeah, I said it once, twice, and I’ll say it a third time: isolation sucks. Being connected and knowing you’re not alone can make all the difference in the world. Also, giving together is a really cool experience.
Talking Points: See Talking Points 8.
10. Because sometimes it scares the hell out of me
I have long lived with a desire to do the things that scare me the most. Some of you in my old Rockford community may remember our cell group motto: Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway!? I guess I’ve just become accustomed to recognizing that feeling of intimidation and panic as a call to arms. For the most part, fear is a fallacy, unfounded and a waste of energy. For many, including myself, fear is directly associated with the potential for embarrassment and failure. I am trying really hard these days to be okay with those possibilities. As cliché as it sounds, I’d much rather try and fail (and then hone the process and try again, over and over until I find success), then never try. The Dollar Endeavor is a scary prospect for me and sometimes sends me into a dangerous if-then loop: If no one responds, then I will feel foolish. If we don’t reach our goal, then I have failed the people who have joined the giving community. If I don’t follow through to the end, then I prove myself to be flaky and unreliable, etc.
But here’s the flip side: If people respond, then there is the potential for new community and for bigger and better community kindnesses in the future. If we reach our goal, then someone receives a really great gift as a result of a whole bunch of people joining little forces for a greater good. And, If I follow through to the end, then I prove to myself that I can be creative and reliable and that success is a fabulous possibility.
Talking Points: Come on, think about it, what ideas do you have about life that scare you, but that, if acted upon could potentially bring you great success and/or satisfaction?
Why do you give? Why don’t you give? Why does it matter?
To share a little monetary kindness, click the link below (because we’re having technical difficulties with the donate button):