How cool it is to wake up thinking, "What can I do for someone else today?" There’s no better start to a day — it sets a precedent and I've found that I’ve been giving more in general ways throughout the entire day. It’s also infectious; talking to my family members about it over the holiday weekend, everyone was brainstorming ideas for ways to help other people. My 6-year-old nephew said, "Open the door for someone," and my 10-year-old niece said, "Give food to someone who doesn't have money." It's amazing how easy it is to make a difference in people's lives when it's intentional. The night after thanksgiving I hadn't done my gift yet, and as my mom was getting ready to order in dinner for all of us, I jumped up and offered to take everyone’s order and then run and get dinner for the whole group. I’m usually content to just throw my order out to whoever is taking charge (because trying to order dinner for 10 people can be an exercise in chaos), but it felt great to take the burden off my mom — treating it like a "gift" made it enjoyable to do.
Along those same lines, focusing on doing things for others has really made me aware of how much I usually focus on myself and my own needs. It’s unintentional, of course – a natural tendency that I think we all have. But, one of the unintended benefits of doing this challenge has been realizing that it’s not all about me. By shifting my attention to giving to others, I have less of a desire to “take” for myself. It’s refreshing and, in a way, liberating.
For all of you participating in the challenge right now, I have a suggestion: think about giving something that you think would be difficult to give away. A huge reason why this challenge resonated with me so much when I originally read Cami Walker's article was that I had a very powerful experience a while back when I was younger and struggling to make ends meet in New York City. I remember having dinner with a dear friend and mentor of mine and I was sharing with her how scared I was that I wasn't going to have enough money to get through the month. I think I had less than $100 to my name. My friend looked me right in the eye and said, "I know exactly what you have to do." I was so happy she had a solution for me until she said, “You have to give some of your money away.”
I thought she was crazy. How could THAT be the solution??? She explained to me that by giving away the very thing I thought I couldn’t be without, I’d be able to move out of my fear that I wouldn’t be able to make it and into an abundant mindset. She told me to find a reason to give someone more money than I would normally want to, but NOT just because she said so — I had to wait for the moment to be inspired to give it. “You'll know,” she said.
I live in New York City; I could have walked around the corner and given money to anyone on the street that night. But instead I followed her advice and I waited until it felt right. Three days later I was buying juice from a street vendor that I’d visited many times before. However, this time I noticed the man making me juice more than ever before — he was so friendly and had this awesome smile. Even though it was super cold outside, I could tell that this guy was happy to be doing his job. As he handed me my juice with a big grin on his face, something inside me knew that he was the one I was waiting to give my gift to. I gave him a 200% tip, which he tried to give back to me three times before he understood that I really wanted him to have it. I didn't think his smile could get any bigger, but it did. He was so touched by my gift.
Oh man, let me tell you, my friend was right! I gave money away at a time in my life when I didn't think I was going to make it, and guess what? I found a way to get by. With help from friends and family, I did indeed make it to the next month and then month after that…but more importantly, the lesson I learned about giving (ESPECIALLY when I am operating from a place of scarcity) has stuck with me ever since.
So, for everyone practicing the art of giving ‘til the 23rd, I challenge you to take it a step further and practice giving away something that scares you just a little — maybe something you think you can’t live without — and see what happens. Chances are, you can do it…and the experience will have an impact on you that you can’t imagine (and also on the person that you’re giving to). And keep enjoying the gifts you are GETTING from simply participating in this challenge; "The Money Song" from Avenue Q really is true (check out the video below) – "When you help others, you can't help helping yourself!" I'll be checking in with you again later in the challenge…’til then, keep giving!