The Tenth Day of Dana: When Dana Goes Awry

For those who took the Dana Challenge, I hope you have been energized. But what if things didn’t go as you hoped? What happens when dana goes awry?

Several people have shared their Dana Challenge stories, some of you in the comments section, some in person. Most have been enthusiastically positive. But sometimes our best-laid dana plans can go wrong. One friend told me her story (hopefully I’ve got the important details right):

My son and I were downtown, and we were approached by a guy selling bracelets. We were happy to help him out, my son got a five out of his wallet. The man said “no,” and we thought he was refusing payment (these were bracelets that they sell for a couple of euros, max). But the man was actually insisting on ten (“I saw it in your wallet”). What the heck we thought, and my son gave him the ten…but then the man refused to give him the five back! It turned into an argument and having to physically wrest the money out of his hands. Our generous spirit was damaged for the rest of the day.

What a frustrating experience! I could relate to not having the slightest desire to interact with any other street venders after that. I actually had a similar experience a couple of days ago. I was waiting for the train, and a man was on the platform asking for money using the time honored scam “I need to buy a ticket but I’m short two euros.” I usually don’t give them the time of day, I definitely feel they probably don’t deserve it (see The Dana Challenge for details on that). But the other night I was in the dana spirit so I thought to myself, what the heck. I put my hands in my pockets where I thought I had change left. As it turned out I didn’t, I shrugged and smiled and told him so. The guy turned on me, he yelled “What are you laughing at? You just pretended to search your pockets…” (I’ll leave the rest of his colorful words to your imagination).

My best dana intentions went awry last Christmas too, although in an entirely different way. I had signed up to work the free gift wrapping stand for Medici Senza Frontiere (Doctors Without Borders), which was set up inside a fancy department store. It’s an expensive store, the average purchase we were wrapping was probably 100 euros. I was appalled by the first shoppers, the average “donation” was less than one euro. I mean, Doctors Without Borders saves lives! I thought maybe people weren’t clear about what the organization does, so I started up with a cheery speech as I wrapped, “You can rest assured that Medici Senza Frontiere can save lives with even five euros.” Nothing doing, my entire shift was like that. I’m not sure they even made enough to cover the cost of the materials. My Christmas spirit drooped for the rest of the day.

So what do we do when dana goes wrong?

It sucks, no doubt about it. But in the end, it doesn’t change much. I think we need to ask ourselves if we in any way participated in the way things went, and we need to make sure we are not accidentally offensive to anyone in our efforts (think safety pins). But those possibilities dealt with, if our heart was in the right place I think we just need to forge on. I won’t be wrapping gifts in that particular store again, but I don’t regret it. That guy that yelled at me really disturbed me, but only for an hour or so. We don’t give in order to receive thanks, right? (That’s the one that may need some reflection: if we’re not too worried about the thanks then we shouldn’t be too worried about the opposite reaction). We’d rather not be spit on of course, but hey, shit happens. I’m pretty sure we can keep on keeping on, because it’s definitely the exception and not the rule.

Ci vediamo domani,


Originally published at on December 23, 2016.

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