Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's overwhelming how many people were touched by my generosity this week.

It’s hard to write when I feel like I have given nothing spectacular this week. There were no big moments where the world stopped, and tears of gratitude flowed from someone’s eyes, for everything that I had done for them. I really thought that there would be more moments like this when I decided to give daily, but …I apparently I am no superhero. I am only doing what I should’ve been doing without having to think about it. But…some of us are a little more challenged.
 So let’s see, here are the non-tear producing, unspectacular acts of the week: Monday, I offered to share my bananas. (They were organic, does that count as more?) Tuesday I was at the hardware store and offered to take a cart in for a gentleman. (Gentleman is relative, I’m not sure if he really was one or not, as he did not offer to take me to dinner for taking in his cart). On Wednesday, I half volunteered, half guilted myself into taking a less beneficial shift at work, so that a co-worker didn’t have to. (She also bribed me with twenty dollars, so I’m not quite sure that I can count this, but I am.) Thursday I gave to a traveling band and offered my nice hardwood floors for them to sleep on (They opted for actual beds). I also gave cherry juice to Santa Claus next door for his arthritis. Friday I again offered my home to travelers who were passing through (they did not show up). And Saturday I gave a bottle of champagne to the hosts of a party (and then drank their wine).
 It’s overwhelming how many people were touched by my generosity this week. (sarcasm) I guess I have to remember that just making myself available to others is what matters. It’s not about money, or giving “things” really, it is about being willing to ‘give what I have’ without question or hesitation.

Lesson: Santa Claus has arthritis.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I am whatever kind of person that kind of person is.

 Yesterday I spent a few hours standing outside a natural grocery store collecting items for one of the local food pantries, called Just Food. I did this about a month ago as well, at a large chain grocery store. I remember thinking how awesome it would be if we could collect food at the natural grocer, and how generous people would be, right? You can guess where this is going. For two hours I had to fake a smile to some of the rudest, most arrogant people in this town, which is quite unfortunate.
 I do hate to generalize, but I will anyway. Shopping at the natural grocer is quite expensive. I get that you can’t judge a person by what they have, what they wear or what they drive, because it is quite possible that none of those things are paid for, and that their debt has overgrown their lives like moss. But…I still find it curious that the individuals with (to the eye) have the most money, are less willing to help than those with (seemingly) less money.
 I get it though. At this point in my life, I’m probably just above the poverty line. I’m not complaining, I have everything I need and quite enjoy my life, but there have been times when my savings account started to increase, and that, is when I found it harder to give.  The less I have, the less concerned I am with maintaining my bank account, and the more willing I am to give what I have.
  I was given a barrel to collect items in at the grocer yesterday. It was not clearly marked and looked very much like a trash can. One man, not paying any attention to me, walked by and threw his soda in the barrel. I wasn’t mean about it, but I did let him know the barrel was not a trashcan. I picked up the soda and threw it away. A little while later, he came out of the store with a jar of peanut butter and commented that he “could” put that in there. Old people gave, children gave, but it’s always the people I judge, that surprise me the most, and give.
 This morning I got the most wonderful email regarding the craigslist ad I had posted a couple weeks ago (see previous blog):
 “Wondering how your project is going? I don’t need help, but am interested in what you’re doing. I’m originally from Kansas and am moving back there this summer. I’m young and in pretty good shape, own a truck, and I’m self employed so I have nothing but time on my hands – I don’t know what your situation is or who you even are, but if you’re still doing this when I get there I’m more than willing to join up with anything that might seem easier with a second person”.
  I’m not going to lie, it would be way easier to give this up and just give when something crosses my path, and as I’ve said before, I am so sick of giving. I am so embarrassed to even write that. What kind of person gets “sick of giving”? Apparently I am whatever kind of person that kind of person is, but that email gave me a little boost and I appreciated it.

I don’t write about every situation as it would be extremely boring and time consuming, but I do want to share examples of giving, as this is a daily intention. I feel guilty that I even “count” some of these, but maybe giving doesn’t have to be as hard as I am making it? So this week I: wrote a couple letters, shared some cheese, cooked dinner and extended an open invitation for anyone to join (though no one did), shared a fan, took a grocery cart in for the cutest little old lady, complimented others and offered my empty egg cartons to a person I don’t like who is getting chickens. Did I really have to throw in the I don’t like part?  If the intent is to give what I have, then I only have to give what I have, even if it is “just” a compliment.
 This week I: wasn’t so good about practicing patience on the road, there were too many unqualified to be on the road, drivers.

Lesson: I am whatever kind of person that kind of person is.

Monday, April 14, 2014

If you see me on the road, and I cut you off, it is probably just someone who looks like me.

Why is it that I can leave the house with all good intentions, thankful to have been given another day, asking myself how I can give today? and five minutes later I have been mean to someone on more than one occasion?! I can’t believe myself sometimes. I’m rude to a truck driver, who apparently did not think I had the right away, and then rude to a woman at Just Food! Just Food! A wonderful food pantry that provides the most amazing farmer’s market veggies and other items to low income families. Just Food, the place where I was on my way to volunteer today! How embarrassing! I realize that some people may not even take notice of my subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) rudeness, but I, am fully aware. I replay it over and again in my mind, instead of just letting it go and saying I’ll do better next time. There is no changing it. I can apologize if I see that woman again?  That is, if I happen to, in some miraculous instance, actually remember what she looks like, as I can’t even remember when a boyfriend has a beard or shaves it off? Today though, thankfully, Just Food was closed. That way, it was just the woman, myself, and my rudeness, who were present. So much for my mantra, “I am kind to everyone I meet”.
 I found it a little too simple to write about the other day, but now, I am sure it is worth mentioning: Giving patience. Perhaps some people give patience without even thinking about it. For me, on the other hand, it requires constant work. What you would think of as simple challenges, but aren't for me: when I am walking through a store, and come to that awkward crossroads, you know, when someone has to let the other person walk in front or go first, or push that gigantic cart with only one item in front of you, or when you both get to the check out at the same time, or when they only have one item, but you’re in a really big hurry too? Or maybe it's when I'm driving down the street and there clearly aren’t as competent drivers as myself on the road, and I have to let someone in front of me? Let me tell you, I have been practicing patience in these things over the weekend, some scenarios better than others, and it is like someone is hitting me on the head with a hammer, and laughing, because I am in agony over a stupid grocery cart going ahead of me. I tend to be so self centered that I always think I have the right away, and that I was there first and should be allowed to go and I have been waiting the longest, but this cannot be the case. Maybe I am so blinded by my me bubble that it requires a hammer, rather than a simple pin, to burst it. So, I will say with confidence, that I find that practicing patience daily, is definitely giving. Let the other person go first. I give what I have, and what I have, is the ability to not make you grumpy, by allowing you the space you need. 

Lesson of the day: If you see me on the road, and I cut you off, it is probably just someone who looks like me.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Offering two fives for a ten can save someone a trip to the emergency room.

 This week I dropped of the items to the woman who had responded to the craigslist ad. It was hard not to judge the meth teeth, but eh, what does it matter really? I don’t care if you do meth, it’s none of my business. I drink whiskey. Her teeth rot, mine turn brown. At least I can use a whitener.
I didn’t stick around too long to chat it up with this girl, though she was very nice, she definitely had the milk-it vibe. I will sympathize with you, I’ll give you what I can, but if you’re trying to milk-it, I don’t want any part of it. So, I say success.
  On another day, I was at the store, and the cashier mentioned she was low on five- dollar bills. I offered to give her two fives for a ten. Doesn’t really sound like much and I ignored the thought at first, it wasn’t my problem? Right? Just go to the bank already, but….”I give what I have”. Maybe the cashier gets so stressed out at the thought of not having enough fives in her drawer, that she then breaks into hives, which then requires a trip to the emergency room? I just saved this innocent little cashier a trip to the emergency room trip. A job well done.
Today, I saw a man with a gas can and a sign, on the side of the road, by Home Depot. I don’t trust the type, but you got to hand it to a person, that whatever the circumstances be, it takes a bit of ego crushing to stand on a corner with a sign. I believe some people really need help and others, well…the truth will find you out in the end, but it is not my responsibility to judge circumstances, which I will say, I very much did so today. So I left. I went to the post office to drop off a driver’s license that I had found the other day. I fully intended to count this as my giving for the day. Does the post office still mail driver’s licenses’ back to people if you just drop them in? I have no idea. I don’t care really, I’m sure this person, from several states away, had since replaced it, but I was not going to pass up an easy out for giving today. But it never works that way. I kept thinking about that guy on the corner with the gas can.  So what do I do? I continue on my way to finish running my errands. Why is it always money I think I should give, and not money per se in this circumstance, but something that would definitely cost me financially? I don’t have a steady income. How am I supposed to keep giving money to other people when my circumstances are uncertain? I finished my errands, and what do you know, I start driving back towards Home Depot hoping that this guy was gone so that I didn’t have to fill up that can. Isn’t that horrible. Why am I acting like this? Why am I so concerned about me? I pull into the parking lot and was relieved when at first I couldn’t see the guy. Then…there he was, and…there someone else was, handing him back a full gas can. Then…there I was, feeling bad that I didn’t act when I first had the inkling. Gas can man started to walk away and I called to him, handed him ten dollars and drove away. If he couldn’t afford to fill it up the first time, maybe he couldn’t afford dinner either, or maybe ten dollars relieves just an itsy bitsy teeny bit of stress, and he can breathe for a second. It’s not much, but it was a lot to me, and more than likely, a lot for him.

Lesson: Offering two fives for a ten can save someone a trip to the emergency room.

Monday, April 7, 2014

suitcase full of peanuts

In response to the Facebook post, my friend Adam, gave a whole suitcase of clothes and shoes for the man (including the suitcase) mentioned in the previous post. Adam didn't ask for the back story, though it came out of my mouth anyway, that these clothes would go to a man soon to be released from jail. Was that necessary? Is it irrelevant? Is it even true? I also say that the only clothes he will come out with are the clothes he went in with, that makes it sound more dramatic. I haven't opened the suitcase. I suppose I may never, it's really none of my business, it is a gift from Adam. It's possible it's just full of peanuts anyway.
 I drive home from picking up the suitcase full of secret goodies, and I see a younger girl, twenty two maybe, with two large bags, who has just seated herself on the ground, in the middle of the sidewalk. I turn onto my street, roll my window down, and ask if she needs anything, or if she is just resting there. She says yes, I do need something, I was just about to call a cab. I offer a ride. She accepts. We make awkward small talk. She apologizes for having me drive ten whole minutes to drop her off somewhere. I have no place I need to be, I reply. I drop her off. I drive to a parking lot to watch the sunset and cry.
 Cry because being able to offer what I have is awesome. Cry because I have nothing to go home to and why do I have to be so lonely. Cry because I am so lucky to be able to give. Cry because I wonder what my parents would think of me if they knew how wonderful I was.

It takes a lot for me to call my friends.

 I went from lonely, sad and feeling sorry for myself to completely fulfilled and ecstatic in one minute. Of course the excitement is fleeting, but that one moment where you get that high, is amazing.
 I got home from mailing a letter, intended to be my "giving" of the day, opened my email, and there it was. It was the first response to my craigslist post. A woman wrote that she needed a free place to eat lunch. She also needed mens clothing for someone who will soon be getting out of jail. She left her phone number and asked that I call.
 I actually contemplated not calling and only responding by email. It takes a lot for me to call my friends, let alone, a complete stranger who is now relying on me. But, I picked up the phone and called her. Relief came when there was no answer and I could just leave a voicemail. I then sent an email with the information I had and asked for pant and shoe sizes. phone rang. I wasn't off the hook after all. She was the nicest lady and you know, it was kind of nice to talk to someone. We even laughed.
 While I didn't catch her in time to direct her to a free lunch, as she was just passing through town, it still made me feel alive at the thought of helping someone. Plus! I got a dose of human interaction! For a minute, I wasn't alone anymore. I got the pant and shoe sizes and posted the need on Facebook. I figure we're all in this together, not everyone has money or time to give, but! we can give what we have!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Too lazy to make cookies for Santa.

Let's see two days ago, what did I give? I think I offered to help Santa Claus clean his house. I met Santa a few months ago when he was outside on the sidewalk, just waving at cars as they passed by. He's hilarious. I'd say early to mid 70's, funny as hell, and if you meet him, he will probably tell you of his traumatic brain injury. He volunteers his time during the holiday season to raise money for charity, by dressing as Santa. He did happen to fall some time ago, I think about 60 feet downward, but don't ask me how, my memory is bad. He still gets around, but a little bit slower and less agile than before. So, he needs someone to help around the north pole a little bit. I can't say that I was disappointed that he let off the hook easy this time, as he wanted to wait a few days before I cleaned. I still counted it. I had made myself available.
 The next day, I offered to drive two of my drunk friends home. I'm not sure I can count that. But I am. and let's see, yesterday...I'm not sure I accomplished anything at all. I'm not perfect.
 Today, however, I have been reading and re-reading the craigslist wanted ads and I also reading yahoo's freecycle, to see if there was anything that I had, that I could give away. I have this exercise ball, that two people actually are requesting on freecycle, but I am not yet ready to part with it. I looked at the craigslist volunteer section, tried to think of an old person to visit (but all my favorites are dead), and checked my facebook wall to see if anyone had posted a need for help, nothing. I did see the person I offered to help the other day, complaining about not having help or something, and I may have snarled. They are denying me of my right to help and making me work to come up with some other idea, and I sure as heck am not offering again. That's how sweet I am.
 So that being said, I came up with the genius idea to post an ad on craigslist, under services offered. Even though I have yet to help someone, I am counting that as my deed for the day, because I think there is an importance of just making yourself available, and as I was too lazy to make cookies for Santa.
Here is the post:
 "Do you have trouble asking for help? I am doing a project where I try to help someone out every single day! I am not looking to get paid. If I can assist you I will. Please keep it clean. No task too simple, I don't have big muscles or a truck, but willing to help however I can. Thanks so much!"
Let's hope for less creepers and lots of cute little old people to help (as I am sure they are all browsing Craigslist). Cheers!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Everyone must be thinking how wonderful I am.

I hate to share feelings unnecessarily, but maybe I should open up a little bit more about one of the greater reasons why I started this project: loneliness. I am so lonely I can hardly stand it. For the time being, I've moved past my desire for a significant other, and am solely focusing on the need for friendship. I've moved around so much in my life that I have no "core" group of friends. I go through phases of really making an effort to invite people places and/or forcing myself to participate in social gatherings, in an attempt to create this circle of friends. Then somewhere along the way, I get discouraged, or busy, or...self-centered. I find that when I'm lonely, I tend to only see my needs, which in turn, isolates me even more, because I can't see past myself. Make sense? It's a horrible cycle. And I don't have the solution. It's a fight to stay positive, but I know that turning my gaze inward will not lead me anywhere good. Thus, this project. I figure, if I can turn my attention outward, towards others, and their needs, and not on myself, that surely, a change will come. I also forget that this is a process.
  Yesterday's giving came relatively fluently. I was at the gym walking on the treadmill. I was honestly fighting back tears, feeling sorry for myself. Had no one else been in the room, I for sure would have been a waterfall of emotion. A hispanic older woman came in the room to use the exercise bike. She couldn't figure out how to get the seat moved back and had moved to another bike, trying to figure that one out as well. I got off the treadmill, asked her where she wanted the seat set at, fixed it, and got back on my treadmill. I felt a little guilty because I'm not sure I even so much as smiled at the woman. Then of course, my mind crept into the arrogant place of assuming that everyone else in the room must of thought how wonderful I was. I'm sure they were all thinking how great it was that I just jumped off my treadmill to help someone in need, without even a second thought about it. and maybe next time they would do the same for someone else? but for now, it would just be a story they tell their friends all about, about this nice lady at the gym. Yes...I went there. Hopefully, as this project continues, these presumptuous thoughts will subside, but for today, I cannot say that I did much better.
 I texted my bandmates this morning to see what time we were having band practice tonight. One responds that he has been vomiting all morning and would not be making it. I wished him well, continued my day, and then wondered how I could help someone today. I'm a slight bit ashamed that it took me so long to offer HIM assistance. I finally realized I should see if he needed anything. No no, he says, I live so far out of town, don't want to trouble you. One thing I am thankful for, is that I do have the time right now to give. I was able to drive to his house, deliver gatorade and sprite, and then stop and look at the beautiful scenery on the way home. I felt the arrogance slipping back in, and started to think about how great I was for helping him in such a way. This pride then turned into self-pity and then sadness. My mind went in a downward spiral and it was a fight to stay away from focusing on my needs. Aren't you supposed to be able to just ride the giving high for the rest of the day?
 I don't have any material needs. I don't have everything that I want, but as soon as you get what you think you want, you just want something else anyway. If I could buy a friend or two to spend time with, that is an investment I would make. Then I wonder if I am making it all up in my head. Do I have people to spend time with that I am overlooking? Is it just part of feeling sorry for myself that I can't see them? Am I the problem?
 So while I would rather hide my emotions and not share this part of the experiment/project, as my ego doesn't much appreciate it, I think it is really important that you see the whole picture. I am doing this as much for me, or even more so, than I am for others.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I can't help that my muscles are so big.

 Yesterday, my roommate moved into his new place. It probably comes as no surprise to you by now, that it was a stretch for me to offer to help him, seeing as I was SO busy reading a book. But somehow I forced the words out of my mouth, twice! The first time, he did the polite, "oh no, you don't need to help" and clearly when he did need help, I quickly shoved the words out of my mouth again, before I could logically think my way out of it. This time, he conceded and allowed me to help. It didn't take long, as he only needed help with his box spring and mattress. Not to mention the use of my huge muscles to lift them on top of his car. (I'm not quite sure how much I actually assisted, but I did exert effort, because this had to count as my giving for the day). I also gave five dollars to a touring band. (I may have to start saying that after I tell really boring stories (which rarely happens).
 Today, I can't lie. I'm feeling a little sorry for myself. I am tired of giving. Tired of trying to think of ways to give. Then I feel ridiculous for thinking about how tired of giving I am? Doesn't make any sense. Am I more selfish than I realized?
 I log on to Facebook. Someone has mentioned a need for a ride later this week. They had plenty of offers, but people, oh sweet good intentioned people, rarely follow through. I logged out of Facebook without offering to help because one, this person is ALWAYS asking for help, and two, it seemed as though it was covered. But...wait for it...I log back in, eager to do my "good deed" for the day, which, I decided, was to make myself available.  Then... I start thinking. And apparently thinking, shows the intention of my heart, to not be very pure at this stage. I didn't want to help this person because I think that they overuse the kindness of others, without giving back. But since when is it my place to judge their actions or their course of action? At least they asked for help! Rather than as some, complaining that no one will help them, when no one even knows of their need!
 This whole giving thing...I don't know about it, challenging me on my character? On my motives? On my selfish judgmental ways? Rude. It's hard work and I already lifted a mattress this week.