The Story of Giving

They say social media is ruining us. Slowly driving us away from connection with each other and leading us to new levels of narcissism. I’m old enough to remember a time without social media which may be a reason that I cannot help but think this tool isn’t something to totally take for granted.

Two weeks ago I found out there was. After discovering the app, periscope I did a live stream. It’s kind of awkward to hit broadcast and watch people message you as you speak. Before I did my own I watched a couple of other people do theirs. I saw saw live from a NY subway stop, a guy doing a broadcast about marketing, and an artist painting a sunset, and a teenage girl giggling about boys.

It was time for my very own social experiment. Could I ask these complete strangers to give me money for random acts of kindness? There in my living room I made a Gofundme and tried to sell the idea. The little voice in my head said no one would be even remotely interested in what I wanted to do.

Still, I sold the idea of giving. And then I waited.

First $25 then $50 the next day 3 people gave $10. By the end of two days I had $285. The following day, three days in, I would have $500.

A day after the money was put in my account, I promised the group id find a homeless person and take them off the snowy Philadelphia streets for lunch. I felt a rush of nervousness as I walked the streets. Would I find the right person? Would a homeless person even want to go to lunch? How do I ask?

It kind of just unfolded and soon I was at 5 Guy for over an hour learning about Tom. I found him on the corner of broad street with a lackluster sign and a solemn expression.

Once at lunch he smiled and shared that he was 36 and homeless for the last 6 years. He answered all of my questions open and honestly. Very honestly; he didnt eat fries because he has no bottom teeth. He also didn’t seem care that it was being filmed. Nor did he get defensive when I asked him why he does not work. In Tom, there’s a healthy balance of acceptance and authenticity.

I went out of my comfort zone with Tom, and in this way I’ve met so many other people who need help. Since Tom, I surprised a kind bathroom attendant with a big tip, and next week I’ll be meet with (and giving to) a woman who’s dedicated her entire life to stopping gun violence in north Philly.

I’ve been interviewed by the news, and they ask what the message of this project is about. Though people are getting a monetary gift, it has nothing to do with money. In a world that’s viewed as cold and unjust, it is a small reminder that there’s good everywhere. Ive learned that for some reason the effect of a stranger doing something kind has an particular effect on people.

Wholly, this experience is teaching me how I can effect someone I’ve never met by doing so little. Consciously being aware of your ripple effect in this world is a powerful gift.

I’m not sure who the rest of the gifts will go to, but I am sure that I will share the stories and cherish the time I have to spread presence and connection with people who’s paths I would never have crossed.

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