For 14 years now I’ve been obsessed with a single thought. It’s a question really. A question I’ve asked a million times. And it took flying all the way to Africa to even realize it was bothering me. The question is – Why is a charitable donation so disengaging? There are other words I could
This afternoon I gave away my 24th toonie. It’s been just over 3 weeks since I started giving away a toonie a day and I’ll confess, I freaking love it. It’s refreshing and life-giving to give. But it doesn’t come without its challenges and if I’m honest, it still feels a little unnatural.
I’ve been keeping a record of who I give to and what kind of reaction they have. I also make a note if anything stands out from our conversations. Already I’ve given to friends and complete strangers. I’ve given to neighbours, business people, teenagers, my grandfather, a waitress and a man named Sunil, who I met walking down my street in the cover of night. It was pitch black and I say, ‘hey, I’ve got something for you’.
He didn’t even flinch. He took my toonie and then we chatted there for 5 minutes about life and family and giving.
I will get into specific conversations I’ve had as I go along, but right now I’m going to tell you what I’ve been noticing – about me and about the people I’ve been giving to.
Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:
If you’re over 35 you don’t take the toonie right away. You’re suspicious and it actually takes some convincing for you to take the free $2 I’m giving you. And even then most of the time I am practically pushing the toonie into your hand. I spend time convincing you there’s no strings attached while you stare at me like I’m crazy. Which is what you probably think about me as you walk away.
If you’re under 35 you snatch the toonie right away. You don’t question it. Instead you say things like, ‘this is freaking cool’ or ‘how long have you been doing this’ or ‘what number am I?’ You instantly connect with the concept and happily play your role in this. I like giving to you because you smile and you’re encouraging.
I naturally avoid rich people. Or at least perceived rich people. Once I even stopped my intent to give a toonie because I saw what car the guy was about to get into. Why is this? Am I afraid of what they’ll say to me? Is it that I don’t think they need the $2? Am I worried they won’t take it? I’m going to explore this a little later because I think there’s something there. I think that people with money still need to be cared for and encouraged and offered acts of kindness. Does having a bigger bank account mean you have less human needs? I think not.
I LOVE giving to kids. I didn’t expect this. I knew I liked kids, but what’s great about giving them $2 is that in most cases it actually means something to them. They could care less about the blog or what I’m doing with my life, but man they love that toonie. They act like they’ve never had a stranger offer them money for no reason before. I wonder why? ‘Just take it and do what you want with it’ I say and they do just that. One boy standing with his friend who just received a toonie says to me, ‘Mister – I’m here at this park all the time – you should come back and find me!’. Awesome. And you know I’m going back to find him.
Here’s one – I’m still very awkward with my delivery. I feel a bit awkward walking up to people and then more awkward trying to give them money. I need to work on my delivery. But I also want to try and stay humble and be ok with however someone might respond. Live out of my comfort zone a little.
And finally, provided you’re telling me the truth, over half of you so far have said that you’re going to donate the toonie to some cause close to you or you’ve told me you’re going to pay if forward. I think that’s awesome. I’ve been told that toonies will be given to cancer research, a memorial fund, a neighbour, and a work fundraiser.
I have a feeling there’s a lot I’m about to learn from this. About you, about me, and about us.