This month I had the fortunate opportunity to participate in Yahoo's Ripple of Kindness Program. I was given $100 to spread kindness this holiday season and hopefully encourage a ripple effect. I was very honored and excited to participate in this program, although I found it hard to decide how best to utilize this generous gift.
Various ideas went through my head like buying a cup of coffee for a stranger at Starbucks, purchasing stamps for the next patron in line at the post office, donating a warm coat to a local clothing drive, providing a microfinance loan through Kiva or buying Target gift cards and randomly passing them out to people as the entered the store, but I couldn't decide.
I grappled with trying to do something for the sake of being kind and doing something that would really help a person in need. Would buying a cup of coffee for a stranger in my affluent suburb really make a difference? Or would giving money to a charitable organization be a better way to use these funds?
I finally decided to divide the money in half and use it both ways. I wanted to truly help someone in need and at the same time create a ripple effect of kindness by interacting with an unsuspecting gift recipient, who would hopefully take this experience and "pay it forward."
For the charitable donation, I chose the Family Giving Tree. They are a local organization that fulfills the Christmas gift wishes of children throughout the Bay Area. With the help of my four kids, we selected two kid's holiday wishes and made our donation. It was a great way to share the experience of giving with my children.
For my random act of kindness (which was actually more nerve racking than I thought it would be--approaching a stranger can be difficult), I purchased groceries for an elderly woman behind me in line at Trader Joes. She was reluctant at first but when I explained the program, she graciously accepted my offer and told me how she had just given to a local Boy Scout organization.
These experiences have inspired me to continue giving, not only to my favorite charities but spontaneously to strangers in my community because in the end both are gratifying and meaningful.
Will you join me?