Daughter Sara and I stayed one night at the Grand Lake Lodge in Colorado; passing through many years ago. The huge log cabin lodge was dead quiet so after dinner I got out my guitar and played by the fire. For my own fun. Sara read her book. There was an older couple listening from 30 feet away.
After a few songs the couple got up to leave. The man handed me a $100 bill and gave me a smile and a nod as he walked out. The woman lingered a bit and then bent closer to fill me in. “He loves doing that,” she said.
Wow. How fun would that be! Handing out hundred-dollar bills!
Actually, I do it with 1s and 5s. I love to give money to anyone who asks for it. I’m that guy who slows traffic while I hand a dollar through my car window to a person with a sign. I get that they might use it for drugs or alcohol or cigarettes or other “bad things.” I get that they might “be able” to work. But you know what? They are asking. A fellow human being is asking for help. Let me treat that person with dignity and give them what they are asking for, without hassle, and not judge what’s best for them.
And you know what else? It’s direct giving. No middleman, no paper work, 100% of my charitable gift hits the street. Handing a bill directly to someone just makes me smile; makes me feel good that my actions are aligned with my principles.
It doesn’t have to get noticed. I notice. I’m watching me. I once heard someone say, “Try to do something nice for someone every day and not get caught.”
For me, I’m giving when I hand out money but also when organize a neighborhood Olympics or haunted barn. When I run Zoom for Quaker Meeting. When I take a call from a friend. When I play guitar for people. When I mentor or advise someone. When I help Carol with dinner. Some of these things get arduous, and expensive, yet if I think of them as “giving gifts to others” then the tasks are more fun and the money less concern.
Am I weird? Do other people get such a kick out of giving?
Oh, but here’s a thing. To get lasting joy from giving it has to be without strings. Otherwise your joy is tied to outcomes. Another thing to keep track of. Another thing that can turn into a resentment. “We’re giving you this check and we would like you to spend it on…..” That’s a gift with strings. More common are gifts with implied return on investment. Lingerie I gave to girlfriends? Good examples of gifts with strings.
Best to feel all the joy at the moment of giving, give 100%, and free the recipient to do whatever the hell they want with it. Frees you both really. You don’t need to pay attention to what happens next. You’re not invested in what happens to the gift. You did your joyful thing. Onward.
It’s like this with speaking in meetings. Ideas without strings are the best! It is so helpful when people contribute ideas without the need for credit or without the need for a specific outcome. Like throwing bills into a hat or a collection plate not noticing or caring who gave what, not noticing or caring how the money gets spent. Contributions like that are most valuable to the group.
Christmas is hard because we feel obligated to give; it’s a sort-of forced joy. Fine. So what. Genuine joy is still always available. Here’s how. Give in ways that you are not obligated. Just because you want to. With no attachment to outcomes. Just for fun.