Monday, March 1, 2010

Days 12 & 13: A Thwarted Give

Yesterday (Day 12), Amber and I went to a church located in her mother's neighborhood, where we are trying to establish a community garden. The hope was to meet some people at the church who may be interested in getting involved, and perhaps even helping them be the ones to establish the community garden. Since we went to this church instead of our regular one, we gave our tithe check to them, which is probably good - it was a much smaller church than our regular one, and probably needed the money more.

After that, Amber and I spent about an hour walking through the neighborhood, asking people if they'd be interested in participating with a community garden if we can get one established in that neighborhood. This makes a total of more than three hours this weekend spent soliciting support for this project, and the response has been mostly favorable.

Then Elijah and I went out to the family swim time at the YMCA, and generally had a good day. I also got a decent amount of reading done, so have some great topics for upcoming blog posts.

Today (Day 13), started off with a bang. I learned that I'm receiving a bonus from work ... which, of course, I will be giving away as part of the project. I don't yet know how much the bonus will be, but I'm sure it'll be enough for us to find some useful way of spending it.

I knew that this was a possibility, but wasn't counting on it. Even if my company did give bonuses this year, I wasn't sure when they would manifest. I have to admit, I was kind of hoping that the bonus would come out right after the project was over, in the beginning of April ... which would provide a great conclusion to the book (and provide me with the ability to pay off the new windows I bought on credit last year). Alas, this was not to be.

Fortunately, this provides me with a good opening to hit up my coworkers to donate to our Heifer International team fund. Remember, if I collect $10,000 by midnight March 28, I will donate my hair to Locks of Love! This is your opportunity to help families become nourished and self-sufficient, and also to provide a child with medical hair loss the opportunity for a nice hairpiece. Find out more here!

Amber and I also went to the grocery store, with the plan of buying a random stranger's groceries. (We also shopped for our own, of course.) However, this proved to be a bit more difficult than I anticipated. For one thing, I was suddenly overcome with intense nervousness about approaching someone and offering to buy their groceries. Being a big, hairy guy walking up to some single mom with kids and offering to pay their grocery bill just seemed kind of creepy, even with my wife there.

So Amber took my card and walked up to the woman behind her in line, as she was rung up, and offered to buy her groceries. The woman was understandably confused, glancing around as if expecting there to be video cameras. Amber said, "No, there's no gimmick. We just want to bless someone." The woman replied, "You really don't have to do that." Amber replied that we knew that, but would still like to. The woman said, again, "No," and we backed off this time.

I had been waiting for the time when someone would turn down a giving opportunity, but I honestly didn't expect it to happen so early - on the first day when we're actually giving money away to a random stranger on the street. 

Rather than trying to find someone else, we left the grocery store - although I did end up buying $30 of bags worth of food which went into the grocery store's campaign to feed the poor. We've got a month full of grocery runs to try this particular sort of give, and the failure has left me with an idea for how to approach it (and future gives) in the future:

Our plan has typically been to keep it fairly anonymous, like just a random act of kindness without any real explanation. I think, in retrospect, that this is a bad plan. Instead, we'll lead into it with something like, "We're trying a project where we give to others for forty days, in new ways. Could we buy your groceries today?" This way, the person doesn't think that we're buying the groceries just because we feel like they can't buy it on their own, but instead they're helping us to complete a task that we want to complete.

If they express interest, I'll tell them about the blog and potential book, and even invite them to follow along or donate to Heifer if they're so inclined, but I won't push for that. I don't want anyone involved to feel like they're being pressured.

I guess we'll see if future recipients are more willing to accept their good fortune in the future.


  1. No homeless people where you live? There was a guy your age sitting outside Best Buy today with a sign. "I need a tent".

    Also, my local animal shelter takes gifts of cat or dog food. Does that count as groceries?

  2. Like the time I had bought flowers to bring to a dinner party and then couldn't find the actual address (in my defense, I was in Paris at the time). It was a long way back to my arrondissment with a big bunch of flowers but it would have been ridiculous to throw them out. I saw a woman who looked like she'd had an awful day -- tired, haggard and generally depressed. So I handed her the flowers and said (in my so-so French) "Please take these. It's a beautiful day & they shouldn't go to waste and I can't carry them. Please take them home and enjoy."

    She looked at me like I'd just killed a toddler in front of her and tried to give the flowers back. I handed them back to her and said "They're just flowers. Enjoy them. I've nowhere to put them, I'm just a visitor."

    I finally had to run away because she was suspicious. Either that, or had been pelted with flowers by Americans before and it had gone badly or something.

    In today's world it can be hard to give to individuals. They're either suspicious or insulted. But it can be done. Sometimes you just have to run. :)