No one has ever become poor by giving

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

The other day, my wife and I found a $5 bill while out shopping.

For my millennial co-worker, she would have screamed, “YES!” with a greedy growl. But for us it seemed wrong to simply pocket the money, which admittedly now represented a loss to someone else.

The two of us quickly agreed that we should donate this found money to someone who needs it much more than we do.

My commute home from work is littered with people standing on street corners begging for donations. We both decided that one of these individuals would be the recipient of that $5.

Ironically, as soon as we made that decision, I couldn’t get rid of the money.

It seemed I never stopped at a red light when someone was standing there, or the rain caused those individuals to seek shelter instead. Days went by as the $5 just sat in my bag.

As strange as it seems, that $5 made me feel uncomfortable.

Each day I was unable to connect with someone on the street made me feel as though some inner demons were purposely retaining the money. I guess maybe I also knew I was afraid and a little embarrassed to roll down my window to hand a stranger this money. Isn’t that idiotic?

Last week, I wrote a post entitled, “Karma encourages people to do good, what’s wrong with that?”

In short, I recant the story of a driver who relinquished their entire pizza to one of those people standing on the street corner.

Yesterday, when I finally found myself stopped in front of one of those individuals, I was surprised to find it was the recipient of that pizza who I was now happy to be giving the $5 to.

He was probably around my age and couldn’t have been more polite or appreciative for the gift I just bestowed upon him. A lousy $5 brought more joy to this man’s day than it would’ve provided me stuffed in my wallet.

As I drove away, I felt somewhat overcome by emotion. When I thought about all the things I take for granted, all the problems I assign more value to than they deserve, I realized that I’m one of the luckiest guys alive.

This is a story I longed to share with others – hoping this act of kindness and resulting inspiration would be infectious. But I soon realized that people thought I was crazy to give up the $5. One person even told me, “I work hard for my money, let them go out and get a job.”

Singer/songwriter (and poet in my opinion) Mary Chapin Carpenter had this to say on her song The Middle Ages:

Now you bitch about your job what’s wrong with folks today
The price of gas and milk and the guy who begs for change
He’s camped out at the light you hide behind your shades
And will the green to flash to speed your getaway

It’s very easy to make excuses as to why we don’t extend our bounties and kindness to others. We convince ourselves they’re not worthy, they should work harder, they should be tougher, that we have our own problems to deal with.

But that kind of selfishness will never inspire others to do good or change a self-serving society into one of generosity.

Carpenter continues:

We used to dread lives rendered ordinary
We always said we’d own a grander story
But the only kind worth telling somehow
Is the one about a jolt that makes you listen
That jagged lightning bolt of recognition
That love and kindness are all that matter now

How right she is.