Friday, February 19, 2010

Blessings Already?, or I Haven't Paid for Food in Two Days

Last night, Amber, the kids, and I were invited over to a friend's house for a nice lasagna dinner. Lasagna is, actually, my favorite meal, so I was all over this. The only thing was that I'd had lasagna the night before ... and, like last night, I did not have to pay for it.

Actually, all of my meals for Day 1 and Day 2 of the experiment have been provided for free. I was in work meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, so they provided us with Panera Bread for breakfast and lunch. On Wednesday, I claimed some leftover bagels to bring him for Amber and Elijah to have for Thursday's breakfast. Wednesday night, my manager took coworkers and me out for dinner, where I had lasagna ... about half of which was brought home for Amber's Thursday lunch. (Amber ended up eating lunch at her mother's, so the lasagna is still waiting in the fridge.) Then on Thursday night we were invited out for dinner, spontaneously, by friends - again, with lasagna, which is fine by me, since it's my favorite food.

I cannot help wondering if this is coincidence or should be interpreted as some form of synchronicity. That is a large part of why I'm doing the experiment, of course - to get some tangible evidence of whether there is a correlation between the good things that happen to you and the amount of giving in your life. So far, the jury's still out, but free food hasn't been the only reward.

For example, as we were beginning to plan this experiment, Amber recommended that we begin tithing to our local church. I will get into more detail on tithing specifically in a future post, but since we were planning the project, I figured that it couldn't hurt to give some to the church, which does a lot of good work in the community. Some of our money, no doubt, was used to help send one of our pastors to Haiti to help out, and so that alone makes it worthwhile in my book. (And this is, after all, my book.)

However, as I wrote the very first tithe check in January and placed it in the envelope, I thought about the sermons in the preceding weeks. The emphasis throughout the Christmas season had been on how giving really, tangibly, brings divine blessings (sometimes in the form of physical wealth) into your life. Now, to the degree that I have any religion, I tend to be more of a Deist ... God may exist, and may have set things in motion, but I really don't believe in a personal God who intervenes in affairs here on Earth all that much. (This may surprise many people reading this, given the project I'm working on, but keep in mind that if I did believe in such a thing, the whole experiment would be unnecessary.) I glanced up into the sky as I placed the tithe check into the envelope and said something along the lines of, "Okay, it's in your court now." 

Then the phone rang. I stared at it. It rang again. I blinked. It rang again. I glanced at the envelope. It rang again. I stared at it. It rang again. I answered it.

It was Amber, and she was calling to tell me that a family member who was borrowing our old pick-up truck (which we really never used anyway) wanted to buy it from us. We ended up settling on a price of $750. Given the payment terms (requested by the buyer, who knew nothing about the experiment), only $100 will come in during the 40 Days, so this is money that we'll actually see and be able to use, instead of having to give it away as part of the experiment. In addition, this saves us roughly $20 a month in car insurance expenses which, since we rarely used the vehicle, were really kind of a waste of money.

Now that is a profoundly weird experience, I think. Certainly it's possibly just coincidence, but the dramatic juxtaposition of me thinking "It's in your court now" and the phone ringing, bringing money into my life (and removed an expense, which is in some ways even better), is a powerful one that's hard to ignore. The human brain makes it hard to see connections like this and not draw some sort of link between them, even in cases where none appears to exist. Not impossible, but hard. (On a related note, my essay in Pink Floyd and Philosophy addresses the philosophical questions related to human interpretation of these sort of connections, in the context of the perceived synchronization between the Dark Side of the Moon album and The Wizard of Oz film, including the aforementioned Jung's theory of synchronicity.)

On top of that, I've also been asked to teach a local writing workshop for kids, which would potentially bring in about $250. (The workshop would take place during the giving experiment, but I don't know if I'll actually receive the payment during that period or not.)

Furthermore, on Monday, a full two days before the experiment officially commenced, I had a series of experiences where - in somewhat rapid succession - I got several interesting business opportunities placed in my path without really trying too hard for them:
  • A new acquaintance who teaches physics and astronomy at a nearby university proposed the possibility of collaborating on a series of physics textbooks. He'd already begun making overtures to textbook companies on his own to gauge interest.
  • Tony Lakas, a friend who runs The Danger Room comic/gaming shop (and has generously joined as a 40 Days of Giving team member for Heifer donations!) proposed the idea of a monthly comic book series focusing on philanthropic issues. I'm not sure how feasible this one is, but it was interesting nonetheless, and Tony has the connections in the comic book industry that if I wanted to pursue it, I would actually have a chance of getting in touch with the people needed to make it manifest.
  • Another new acquaintance discussed setting up speaking engagements, and provided me with some insider tips on how to situate the engagements so that I'll actually get paid for them.
All in all, what do I think of this? It's interesting, and it certainly is in line with my hypothesis ... especially if any of them end up panning out. These, of course, are long term projects, and have the potential to offer benefits that far exceed the duration of the 40 Days of Giving project. We'll just have to see what comes of them.