Sometimes it’s cool to give without getting anything back.
I had an experience this week where I was in a part of downtown off my beaten path. As I walked down the sidewalk, I approached a scene where two people appeared to be arguing. As I got closer, it was clear that it was more like one person yelling at another.
From I what I was able to put together at that moment, it was a homeless guy being shooed away from the front of a restaurant. The guy seemed to be telling him to get out of there and go someplace else. This was directed toward the homeless person in a very irritated, hostile tone. Maybe the sight of the homeless person on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant would impact business? Perhaps that was the worry.
The thing is, the homeless guy looked older, and it’s still not really warm around here. Besides, why treat someone so poorly, especially when his life is clearly so hard. There has to be a better way to accomplish the goal.
I was irritated at the yeller, so I pulled out my wallet to give the homeless guy $1. Well, I didn’t have a $1 bill. The smallest bill was $5. I immediately thought of walking away, but then I just gave him the $5 and said “here sir, have a nice day” before proceeding.
Unfortunately, that restaurant jackwagon didn’t see it. If he did, it would have been great.
Nevertheless, something good came of it and I learned something: it’s cool to give when you get absolutely no benefit or credit for it.
Yep, I’ll probably never see the guy again. Nobody saw me give him money (as far as I know). I’ll never get any direct or indirect benefit for that $5, nor will anybody I know. Nobody will ever give me credit for giving that money to the guy. The restaurant guy won’t feel burned by seeing me give his homeless opponent money.
In short: that $5 spent will never provide any direct or indirect benefit to me. Ever. It’s gone for good, and a total stranger will benefit from my hard work.
The thing is, it feels great. It’s not for everyone, which is cool. The choice to give, or not to give, is personal in the first place.
But for me, I’ve discovered that giving while receiving zero benefit or credit – in other words, no “boomerang” effect – can be even better sometimes. When there’s no “thank you” email to read, or no tax deduction to be gained, it seems more pure in some ways.
Of course, I’m talking about it here, so I suppose that “purity” is now gone. Fair enough, I can’t dispute that. But it was there for a while though, and it was enjoyable.
How about you? Do you ever give to strangers in need like that, or anonymously, knowing there will be no indirect benefit to you?