Let’s be clear, right from the beginning, this isn’t a fluff story. There may be some warm fuzzies involved (that’s up to you) but there are no big-eyed kittens or elaborate holiday fables that are dripping in sweetness. This is better. Sure, there’s some talk of coffee (what could be wrong with that?), but coffee is just the delivery mechanism for something even better: doing good doesn’t have to be hard… in fact it can be as easy as offering a warm drink to another human being.
The holidays are a crazy season for most. There’s a certain high-octane vibe to December and it’s easy to get caught up in the press of crowds and mob scenes (literally) for super-duper-killer-deals. The crazed hunt for gifts coupled with a dose of stress (both physical and mental) from all those gatherings and merriment can overwhelm the simple backbone of what it’s supposed to be about: doing good for others, spending time with loved ones, and maybe even contemplating what’s most important in that life you’re living. It’s easy to see how doing more or finding ways to ‘do good’ might seem overwhelming, but here’s the deal… giving hope and joy can be SIMPLE.
Perhaps you’ve heard the recent stories of ‘layaway angels’? If you haven’t, here’s the gist: in the past month quite a few individuals have been swooping in and paying the majority of layaway purchases for strangers (most of them for kid’s items and many were about to be reclaimed by the store). It’s a moving story (click here to see the news clip) and so far over $412,000 has been given to cover 1,000+ Kmart layaway accounts. Of course, not everyone can afford that kind of generosity, but there are no price rules to giving.
Everyone’s heard the stories of strangers ‘paying it forward’ and covering other people’s meal or drink costs. It’s such an easy gesture and is bound to brighten the day of whomever it benefits.. and that has to trickle outward. Things like that tend to spread in one form or another; in fact, sometimes it even gets viral. In 2007, one woman in Marysville, Washington made a habit of paying for the person behind her in line… Her goal was to create an act of kindness that grew. The story goes, that at this one Starbucks store her efforts led to over 800 customers paying for someone else’s drink. And any money that was left over in this generosity wave went in to a donation fund for worthy causes.
Not too shabby…
Giving can also be a ritual, or a sort of touchstone in the memory of others, that helps the giver to keep their footing and simultaneously spread a dose of joy for themselves and others. Recently a great story surfaced about Dan Dewey (of Pontaiac, Michigan). Dan used to take his father in for chemotherapy treatments. On every visit, Dan would also hit the local Starbucks and get his father his favorite drink. Dan’s dad asked him to keep the tradition alive and help other people feel special and cared for at the chemo unit. And so, every Thursday morning Dan goes the chemo center, takes orders and then brings back a bounty in specialty beverages.
It may seem like a small thing, but Dan’s delivery is a bright spot for a lot of people. He used to pay out of his own pocket, but these days he’s made a lot of friends waiting in line at Starbucks and the store actually started a special account for him called ‘Dan’s Coffee Run’ so other people can chip in, too. (See the original story from MSNBC here.)
Dan has kept his coffee run promise since 2007, long after his father passed away, but there’s nothing that says giving has to be focused on one group or a long term commitment. That’s the beauty of giving.
An act of kindness can be as simple as buying a hot drink or meal for someone who looks like they could use it. Giving can be random or precise, repeated or a one time gig. There are no rules. But be prepared for a little happiness and perhaps, if you aren’t careful, find the whole experience a bit addictive. That’s ok. There are actually studies out there that indicate that giving and thankfulness are really good for us (see my previous blog writeup about a great study here).
If you enjoy it, feel free to do more…