Several years ago when I was in a Bible study class, the pastor mentioned that he would buy Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds or Burger King gift cards in $2 or $5 denominations and would hand them out to those in need. Personally, I felt bad for the homeless and wanted to give but in the back of my mind I had this nagging feeling that my money would be spent on alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. So I refrained from giving. This gift card idea was fabulous!
The other day I posted on facebook that I randomly gave a $5 Dunkin Donut gift card to a woman working at a convenient store. The response to the post was overwhelming (because I’m fortunate to have so many amazing friends!) My sincere motive for posting was not to show how awesome I was for giving her the card, but rather to demonstrate that such a small gesture can really make an impact. I stopped in the store to buy a gallon of milk. The woman, in her early 60’s I’d guess, was mopping the floor near the entrance. I hesitated before crossing the clean, wet floor and she said “Oh honey, come on in, don’t worry about the floor – I mop 4 or 5 times a shift!” She smiled a big gummy smile – she only had one tooth – lower left. It was warm out and her shirt was pretty sweaty. She looked worn out and tired. I went out to the car and grabbed a gift card from my stash (I keep them in my car so when I’m out and about I’ll have them handy) gave it to her and told her to get herself a little treat. Her first reaction was “Oh noooooo – you don’t have to do that.” But I put it in her hand and said it’s just a little blessing for you. She smiled, hugged me and when I looked at her after her hug, her nose started to turn red and her eyes welled up with tears. I had a hunch she hadn’t experienced much random kindness in her life.
The reason I share this is so that other’s can use this same idea. Based on the response from my group of friends on Facebook, it was clear that everyone thought this was a super idea. I’m sure many will be purchasing gift cards of their own to hand out. There have been many times I wanted to make an impact but since I couldn’t afford to build a school in Africa, I didn’t think I could do anything that would matter much. I know differently now. The small things we do for each other can inspire, heal and give hope. I’m convinced of it.
Clean out that front hall closet, bedroom closet, basement and donate your old clothes or the ones that don’t fit anymore; donate your books, gently used bras, shoes, winter hats, gloves and coats; pay for someone’s coffee or toll or a coworkers lunch; give a hefty tip; let the person go before you in line, bake cupcakes for a fundraiser, knit a sweater for a senior center craft fair, help an elderly person with her groceries, bring in a coffee cake for your staff, bring coloring books and crayons to the children’s floor of a hospital, give away that lawn furniture you haven’t used in a decade, give your pots and pans to a recent college graduate, send a baby blanket to an old babysitter who just became a mom, make a commitment to randomly give out gift cards. So many options! Whatever you choose – just do it.
I look at my lifestyle and am grateful for all I have but I’m sure I take the simplest things for granted. I’ve never personally experienced what it’s like to struggle, really struggle, financially. I have been blessed my whole life with a good job, clothes, food, a home, ability to buy gifts etc. The things I take for granted may be such an enormous gift to someone else. I want to think outside my ‘bubble’ and realize that everyone is not as lucky as me. Each year my church donates to the Samaritan’s Purse – Operation Christmas Child. They request shoe boxes filled with crayons, puzzles, glue sticks, pens, toothbrushes, shampoo, stickers etc for children in poor areas. These are children who will receive one gift for Christmas – this shoebox. That’s it.
Sometimes I wouldn’t give money to charities because I wasn’t quite sure where my hard earned money was going. So basically, ignorance or lack of knowledge on my part prevented me from donating. Ronald McDonald House is the perfect example. At the drive through I’d see the nickels and dimes in the plastic container – sometimes I’d put in .04 just to get rid of my pennies. Then I had a conversation with a coworker of mine whose child had cancer. His son was hospitalized for three months. He told me he and his wife stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, which was minutes from the hospital, and they were provided with a nice home and meals each day. Without the help of that charity they would have either had to make a four hour trip every day to see their son or pay thousands of dollars on hotel bills. Thankfully, I’ve never been in that situation, but if I were, I would be so grateful there was a program like that. So you bet your bippy every time I go through a McDonald’s drive through now they are getting more than a few pennies from me.
If you want to challenge yourself even further, try this. When someone compliments your earrings or your bracelet or your scarf or your candle holders or your living room vase, take it off or pick it up and give it to them. Ooooh that’s a tough one! It is fairly easy to give those jeans away that you haven’t fit into for years, but quite another to give away something that you actually wear and have an attachment to. I’m not implying that you should give away your home or your kids or your engagement ring, but if you really want to be a blessing to others, sometimes giving something away that means a bit more will be an even bigger blessing. Giving away that pretty blanket might be difficult but I can guarantee the person you’re giving it to will be thankful. It’s good karma baby!
Please take time to commit. It’s a win win! Would love to hear other creative ways of giving!