I believe as a society we are a giving people. The Oklahoma City bombing, September 11, Katrina, Sandy, the Japanese tsunami, the Boston Marathon attack…we are all willing to step up and donate money, blood, time, whatever we can, to help.
What can stymie us is the enormity of the event and the assumption that our small donation will do little to help. Certainly a lot of littles add up to a whole bunch of big. But we can miss a sense of connection. This is why I like the one on one giving. You know right away you have directly helped someone.
I’m reminded of the story of the starfish. A huge storm had washed up thousands of starfish onto a beach, and a little girl was carefully working her way along the sand, picking up starfish and throwing them back in the ocean. An onlooker chided her, saying there were too many starfish, she was wasting her time, she couldn’t possibly make any difference. The girl picked up another starfish and tossed it into the water, responding, “I made a difference to that one.”
Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, says money is to be used for three things, to spend, to save, and to give. I heard on the news in 2011 that people were anonymously paying off Kmart lay-aways and the concept truly tickled me. It inspired me to hit my local Kmart at Christmastime and pay off a stranger’s lay-away. I tell the clerk how much I’m willing to pay, she pulls up a matching lay-away, and with a swipe of my debit card I’m on my way and I have made someone’s day for just a few dollars and a few moments of my time.
Last Christmas, when I saw the receipt, I was immediately thrown back to when the children were young and we were struggling ourselves. The remaining total was about $65, and the last payment made was for $15. At that rate the lay-away would not be paid off by Christmas. I remember those lean days, when we would roll quarters to fill our gas tanks and the air conditioning broke and we couldn’t get it fixed. Things have gotten easier as careers have grown and education has enhanced, and $100 is not as painful as it used to be. But I understand what I may consider a small gesture may mean the world to someone else.
This past weekend it happened again. An e-mail went out to my breast cancer support group, calling on all Pink Ladies to do what they could for a fellow survivor with no family who had just had surgery. I said I would call and on Sunday I gave the lady, “Susie,” a jingle. I introduced myself and asked how she was doing.
Alarmingly, she said she was in a great deal of pain and bleeding from her wound site. I told her to call her surgeon and I would give her a ride to the hospital. What I thought would be a quick phone chat turned into a trip to the extended stay hotel where Susie was staying and getting her to the emergency room. Another Pink Ribbon Lady met me there, as I could not stay, and while Susie will need to follow up with her doctor, she did not require admittance to the hospital.
My sister in law said once that angels are everywhere, and that sometimes it’s your turn to be an angel. I mention these stories not to solicit praise, but to point out that opportunities to help our fellow man are all around us. We don’t have to wait for the next disaster or terrorist attack. Leave a $9 tip on an $11 restaurant tab. Stop to help someone stranded on the side of the road. Pay the toll of the car behind you. Helping someone else makes me feel good and sometimes I feel a bit guilty, that in helping someone, I’m also doing it for me. So be selfish…help somebody!