The Gift in Giving

[dc]W[/dc]hen I was a little girl, I set up a lemonade stand at the end of the driveway of my childhood home.

I can’t remember exactly what my impetus was in doing so. I think it was simply a fun thing to do with my friend, and I liked the idea of talking with people passing by, offering them a refreshing drink on a hot day for only 25 cents, and, if I made some bank, that would be a bonus.

I lived on a relatively busy road. It wasn’t a major route in my small town, but it wasn’t an obscure side street either, so I was hoping for some decent traffic. Lots of people stopped, but I distinctly remember this one customer.

He pulls up on his bicycle, all geared up like he’s racing in the Tour de France; a serious cyclist, for sure. He stops at my stand and hands me a quarter. I begin to pour his cup of lemonade.

“Oh, no thank you. I don’t want anything to drink.”

“Oh, ok,” I said, as I reach to hand him back his quarter, puzzled by why he stopped then.

“You keep the quarter. I’m not thirsty. I just want to support you in your business. Good luck today!”

And off he rode.

Wait a minute. This man just gave me something for nothing? He stopped only to be supportive and kind to a stranger?  Although it was a very brief encounter, this experience has stayed with me for 30 years. I’m sure he has no idea what a difference he made in my day and my life. I’m sure his generosity has inspired me more times over the years than I even realize.

During my life since then, I’ve made a conscious effort to perform these acts myself. By doing so, I now see that the cyclist didn’t give me something for nothing. Through his kindness, he, too, received a gift far more valuable than a quarter. Not only did he ride away feeling pretty darn good about himself, but he also stimulated the pleasure centers in the brain. Continuing acts of kindness literally rewires the brain for joy. I guess the Buddhists are on to something when they suggest giving whatever it is you need.

Recently, I was kayaking in my town, and while paddling, I came across a sunflower floating in the water; a pretty random thing to find. I picked it up and put it on my boat. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to take it, but I did. It seemed a shame to leave something so beautiful out there.

When I got back to my car and was putting the boat on the rack, I realized why I had found the flower. I noticed an elderly woman sitting on a bench with a younger woman. I made my way over to the bench, catching the younger woman’s eyes first and silently asking permission to approach. She smiled and nodded, mouthing the word “Mom” while pointing to her partner on the bench.

I walked toward her mother, extending my hand to offer her the sunflower. She looked up at me, tears forming in her bright blue eyes. “For me?” “Yes,” I replied. “I was just out on my boat and found it floating in the water, and I want to give it to you.” She turned to her daughter and smiled. Her daughter shrugged and said, “I guess it was meant for you, Mom.”

I saw a tear fall down Mom’s face as she looked back at me. “Oh, thank you, dear. It’s beautiful.”

“And so are you,” I responded, “so I guess it really is meant for you. Have a great night!”

I headed back to the car while fighting back tears. The feeling of giving that flower to her was better than any gift I’ve ever received. I thought about that cyclist at my lemonade stand and felt a kinship.

The gift in giving is so powerful that you can simply be a witness to it and reap the benefits. I recently saw a story on The Good News Network where a young man’s dying wish was for his family to go to a pizza joint and tip the server $500. Aaron passed away a few weeks after his 30th birthday, and his family got busy collecting donations from family and friends to fulfill his last wish. They have since completed their mission, and as the story spread, more and more donations have poured in, allowing them to leave six $500 tips so far with many more to go. You can follow their progress and watch videos of the gifting here.

Here’s an act of kindness I’m not directly involved in, but just by reading it and experiencing it through the family’s stories, I get to experience the joy and fullness they feel. The benefits of kindness spread far and wide – and quickly.

So, I offer you a challenge. Will you commit to performing random acts of kindness in your life; acts with no hidden agenda? To get things rolling for you, I’ve listed some suggestions below:

  • Hold the door open for someone
  • Buy a cup of coffee or tea for the next person in line at the café
  • Leave sticky notes in books in stores and at the library that say “You matter” or “You are loved.”
  • As you take your daily walk, bring a bag and pick up any trash along the way
  • Snail mail someone in your life a card just to let them know you were thinking about them
  • Put some coins in someone else’s meter
  • Offer a bottle of water to your letter carrier or delivery person
  • Smile at a stranger

We can never have enough kindness in this world, and I truly believe that lives around the globe can be changed by your one act. Like a pebble tossed in the ocean creates a ripple effect, so can your gift.

So, which one will you start with? Please jot a note in the comments below, including where in the world you’re from and let’s spread the joy!

13 replies
  1. Cathi
    Cathi says:

    This might sound like a complaint at first, but I must include this in order to explain the full impact of the joy it has brought me. At my workplace, we have an Employee of the Month, award. I have been there 7 years and not once have I been the recipient of one. Admittedly, it has saddened me occasionally. Anyone is allowed to nominate a person, in other words, one does not have to be a manager to nominate an Employee of the Month. Therefore, I noticed my counterpart has not been a recipient of one either. She is a person who only has to hear of an idea, and next thing we know, she has initiated a solution in remarkable ways. Well, I grabbed the bull by the horns and nominated her for our department! It felt so good to hear my words of praise for this remarkable woman, and even better, it felt wonderful to see her spirits lifted up! Since then, it has not been important to me to be the recipient anymore! This experience is what I treasure more. By the way Kerri, that sunflower is so beautiful, I felt your joy as I read your story. Love & Blessings

    Reply
    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Cathi, what a beautiful example you share! Exactly the stuff I’m talking about here — the beautiful feeling you get by sharing kindness. Thanks for joining the conversation.

      Reply
  2. John Richardson
    John Richardson says:

    Your post today was something! Reminds me of your Letter to the Editor you wrote about me way back chasing the rubbish truck to give the guy a tip. Today, as every Sunday, I bring coffee and dessert to my helpers at the local church, and every fourth week one of the Italian ladies brings me a baked gift to take home. She bakes this treat early in the morning of her day to assist. One good deed deserves another. For the past month or so, the local people running for political office stand on the corner of this busy thoroughfare holding signs, so every Sunday I pass them I get each one a bottle of cold water, and do not discriminate, so I give water to both opponents.

    Reply
    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Hey Daddy-O! You and Mom have always been walking examples of Random Acts of Kindness. What a beautiful exchange you have going with the helpers at church, and so great to offer cold drinks to both Republicans and Democrats alike as they hold signs. Kindness shouldn’t discriminate. Thanks for that reminder!

      Reply
  3. Stefanie
    Stefanie says:

    Great story! Brought tears to my eyes TWICE, darnit! Thanks for sharing. It was beautiful and I shared it too. Blessings!

    Reply
  4. John Richardson
    John Richardson says:

    Kerri your Mom is very thoughtful as you know. Well our neighbor has two dogs and one of them, Lexi, after 10 years, Lisa couldn’t get her to be friendly. Ma worked with the dog for a year and now she comes all the time to visit. A couple of weeks ago, the neighbor asked us to watch Lexi for 3 days. Your Mother of course scheduled the dog for grooming and told the neighbor it was a gift. Well, the other night Lexi stayed with us, and the next day the neighbor’s son came by with the dog’s leash to take her home. She ran and hid in the other room. He came by a second time and Lexi reluctantly left. So even animals show appreciation for kindness. LOVE DAD

    Reply
  5. Barbara Techel
    Barbara Techel says:

    Keri, this was beautiful!! I had tears in my eyes reading this. There is so much amazing gratification in random acts of kindness or of giving of oneself to others with your time. I was a volunteer therapy dog team with my disabled dachshund for over three years visiting a local senior home, hospice and hospital. I’d always seek out the children’s floor when visiting the hosptial with books in a bag that I wrote about my dog to surprise a child. It was the best feeling in the world to first of all have them meet Frankie and then how they’d smile when I gave them a copy of the book about her.
    She has since passed away (June 21), but all the special work we did together opened my heart even bigger and doing other acts of random kindness such as holding the door open for others, or just smiling to a stranger has become so much a part of who I am. I really owe it all to what I learned from my little dog, frankie… and how grateful I am for the world it has opened up to me.

    Reply
    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Barbara. What wonderful experiences and gifts you gave with your pup. How beautiful! I’m sorry to hear of Frankie’s passing, but hope you know that she is back with you in spirit, so be sure to keep in touch with her. She’s around you always.

      Reply

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