What would you do?
You walk into the small empty clothing store in a foreign town and meet the lone employee’s smile. She is on the phone and you commence walking around the store. Soon it becomes clear that she is on a personal call. Like a really personal call. Private. The store is still deserted and still small. You take the clothes you want to try on and head to the back solitary changing room and let yourself in. While you are trying on the clothes, you can’t help but hear the conversation.
Yes, Maam, I am on welfare. But I got a job and they cut me back and I can’t pay my rent that is due tomorrow. No, Ma'am, I’ve never been late on my rent before. My friend is looking after my kids while I work because I can’t afford daycare. Yes, Maam, no, maam...
You think about the crispy fifty-dollar bill in your wallet. You think how fortunate you are that at this point in your life, you could buy everything you are trying on if you wanted to. You think that it wouldn’t matter to your life if you had this fifty in your wallet or not. You could still feed your kids, buy your clothes and groceries, and have money left over. You contemplate giving the stranger your fifty.
When you come out of the changing room, you put the clothes you want to purchase on her counter and mouth that you will come back – this doesn’t seem like the type of call that should be interrupted. The clerk gives an apologetic smile back to you. You go to the coffee shop next door and think.
After some time, you go back to the store and make your purchase. She apologizes for being on the phone. ‘Sounds like you are having a rough go.’ you offer, not sure what else to say. She admits it’s true and you chat a bit. Before you leave you take out the crispy fifty, fold it in half, and hand it to her. She just looks at it. She says the sincerest thank you you have ever heard.
She comes out from behind the counter and asks if she can hug you. She hugs you for a long, long, long time. She is very thin and you can feel every vertebrae in her spine. You remember that you should never be the first one to let go of a hug, so you keep hugging too. She is crying now. You tell her we all need help sometimes and maybe this is a sign that her luck is going to start changing. You tell her that she is doing good by her kids and that she will pay it forward one day and that things are going to start getting better soon. You hope with all your heart that your words come true.
How do you feel? Fifty dollars poorer and a million bucks richer.
I feel great. I feel so blessed that I can do something small that means so much to someone else. The fifty wouldn’t change a speck in my world, I won’t even miss it. But... in her world, it might mean groceries for her kids, a dentist appointment, or a bill payment.
I am certainly not telling you this story to impress you. Giving away fifty bucks is very meager compared to some other people's generosity. I am telling you this story to impress upon you that we can all make a difference – even a seemingly insignificant difference can make a difference.
Usually, I am preaching be nice, lean into your passions, work on yourself, blah, blah, blah. I believe that, I really I do. But sometimes money is a necessary part of the equation.
Today, I am asking you, challenging you, imploring you to get out your wallet. Take out a bill that is inconsequential to you, whether it’s a five, a ten, a twenty, a fifty, a hundred. Fold it up in a corner of your wallet with the intention of giving it away – just giving it away.
Make it your mission this week to give it to a waitress, give it to a person without a home, hang it on a branch by a school (not too high!), give it to someone you know or someone you don’t know, stuff it inside one of those boxes for a charity beside a cash register. Just give it away.
Because you can.
To show gratitude for all the abundance that you have. Because someone helped you once. Because it restores people’s faith in humanity. Because it causes a pay-it-forward effect.
Let go of what they will do with it, that doesn’t matter. Give it away. It comes back, somehow, some way, sometimes, believe me, it comes back.