Give the Gift that Keeps On Kicking – Kindness

You probably think this is just some ploy to get you to buy our book. And while Amazon keeps sending me emails telling me that today is the last day to shop and still receive gifts in time for Christmas, and while we certainly wouldn’t mind if you bought the book (the Kindle version is only $4.99 $2.99, by the way) frankly, we don’t know that this would make the best Christmas present. It’s more of a New Year’s present. In fact, we’ve had several people tell us that they gave the book to someone as a friendly motivator for the New Year, and then actually saw positive results.

But what I really want to talk about is how someone else kicked my rear toward a positive new year. A few weeks ago, I was talking to my pal Suzie. She’s currently a wine rep with one of the top wine companies in the state, but I suspect that before long, she’ll explore one of her many untapped gifts and skills and either start an international cookie empire (she makes these cookies that kick the ass of any existing company’s cookies by a long shot) or maybe be curating some historic library. She’s brilliant, and has an untapped reserve of intelligence and training that would let her do just about anything she chooses. Amongst all that stuff is some kind of information sciences background.

So how did Suzie kick my rear into gear? She reminded me how powerful it is to simply demonstrate kindness. We live in a town that – in spite of its relative prosperity – has a huge homeless community. If you have to walk through downtown Ann Arbor with any regularity, you probably won’t get more than a block or two without getting panhandled. It’s easy to get jaded, and tell yourself that there are plenty of opportunities here, and that the person asking you for money is just some lazy loser. Or to do some convincing math in your head that tells you that if you gave a dollar to all ten people that asked you for a handout that day, it would cost you 3600 bucks a year. Or say to yourself “ah, he’s just gonna go buy booze with it”.

Suzie and I were talking about all of this recently, and she shared that she had started doing something clever, which is to carry a bag of fruit or those amazing cookies I mentioned as she visited her accounts. When someone asked for money, she’d just hand them food! Most of them were actually quite grateful, and she was suddenly reminded that when you make someone else feel good, you feel good.

Our little chat made me aware of what a tuned-out jerk I had become in some ways, and that day, I tried a little experiment. The few times I passed someone asking for help, I gave them some! I won’t go into elaborate details of my not-so-epic philanthropy, but I can tell you this: the very first time I did something kind for a stranger that day, I literally felt lighter inside. I mean, it was a visceral feeling of some kind of vague discomfort being lifted from me. I think we all know this happens, and just get so wrapped up in our rationalizations for disconnecting from the human race that we forget. And the results of my kindness came back to me when I ran into a fellow who I bought lunch that day, and he told me that our brief conversation inspired him to contact his family, who he hadn’t talked to in several years, and they were buying him a plane ticket back to his native Georgia, to help him get his life back on track!

This inspired me to help a local group I work with occasionally to do some holiday food runs, where we drop off  “care packages” to local families who are struggling. I kind of missed doing this on Thanksgiving this year, when the group was unable to do their annual drive. Hilariously, as I was looking for a replacement activity this last Thanksgiving, an acquaintance went into a lengthy and almost convincing explanation of how that kind of activity is a poor use of time and resources anyway, and that I should just relax and feel good about it. She obviously has never seen the faces or experienced the hugs that happen when you’re broke-ass on a holiday and someone brings you dinner!

So this year – or heck, any day – try giving something different. Try giving a tiny bit of kindness to a stranger.

You’ll be surprised at how it may benefit you more than them.

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