I have a friend Ivy Gordon who is a fellow Vistage Chair. She described to me a new practice her group was doing for 2009. It’s called “random acts of kindness”. Each month every member would give the hosting member $10. Ivy has about 16 members in her group, so the total would be in the $140 range assuming an occasional absent member. The hosting member has an assignment to find a person (or several) that could use a cash gift with the understanding that one day they will “pay it forward”. The only rule is that they can’t give it to a charity unless they can give it directly to a person they have met who needs it. The next meeting the host will tell the stories of the people he/she gifted and why. I liked the concept.
I had a Vistage member in my group named Fredrica (Freddie) Thode. Freddie had a mentor that encouraged her to give a $100 bill to someone each month for a year. I like that concept also. I tried this practice for a year. It was thrilling to give the money away. I remember one time giving it to a homeless lady in downtown San Diego. I walked by her, turned around, pulled a $100 bill out of my wallet and handed it to her. I quickly walked away with out saying anything. She said “Oh my God”. My heart was racing and I had a huge smile. I wonder what she did with the money?
Based on my learnings from Ivy and Freddie, I have decided to give a $20 bill away each week to a homeless person or someone I think looks homeless (I should not be presumptuous). I also have decided to tell the person my name and ask them theirs. I am then going to tell them that I grew up in Chicago and ask them where they grew up. I have been anxious for the past few weeks about starting this up. I have all sorts of strange fears. What happens if after I do this, the person is always coming up to me and greeting me and thanking me? What happens if homeless charities find out and get mad at me for give the homeless money directly instead of through their charities? What happens if they just use my $20 to buy booze? What happens if I can’t find new homeless people and I have to give the same one money multiple times? What happens if they begin to recognize me and always ask me for money?
These silly fears and living with them are going to be the best part of this project for me!
Today I gave my first $20 away. I gave it to Ron from Ft Worth, Texas. He was hanging out at this sidewalk by Vons. He was very grateful and said he was going to buy a new pair of pants. Ron is a classic homeless person with dirty clothes, bad teeth and many belongings in a shopping cart. I see him around town a lot and have given him money before. He said he remembered me. I wished I had spent more learning about who he was. Next week I will ask more questions if appropriate.