This December I did something very different regarding gift giving.
I saw something on TV about a wealthy businessman who gives out $100 bills to total strangers. You can watch it here. I have seen a similar story aired before and maybe it’s the same man, maybe not, but I have always thought I’d love to be able to do that.
“Every year people tell me they’d like to do this, but they just don’t have the money,” the reporter Steve Hartman’s words hit me hard. “But now you know the only currency you need is kindness.”
His reply prompted me to action. “What’s stopping you?”
“Uh, money, silly,” was my immediate response. He reminded me that although we don’t have millions, I did have money I could give away. It wouldn’t be a $100, but maybe a $20. Surely I have enough kindness.
So with that in mind, I began to stew on the businessman’s words, “Kindness is the bridge between all people.”
I had all kinds of romantic notions of the reactions I would get when handing over the green out of the blue. People would probably tear up like they did in the video, possibly even hug me and be so grateful.
So, my very next payday, I took $100 in twenties and headed out to the local stores in search of handing out some cold, hard cash. With growing excitement I figured I could bless at least five people, or maybe less, if I wanted to give one person more than $20. Immediately I began to have second thoughts. I truly wanted it to be anonymous, which could be difficult in a small town. What if people I knew saw me? That problem is easily solved: Don’t hand out money when someone you know is around!
My first stop was our local thrift store. My excitement was partly dashed when I saw they were already closed for the day.
My next stop was a small discount chain store. I walked in and strolled around, looking for shoppers. To my dismay, there weren’t many. This was a Friday night in December, where were the Christmas shoppers?
I started to get discouraged, but then noticed some people in the clothes department. Suddenly I became a stalker, eyeing them warily. Then a wave of fear came over me. What? Yes, fear, deep in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t have a national TV crew following me around and I certainly didn’t have $100. What if people were offended? What if they were too proud to take it? What if they refused? My thoughts came so quickly that I briskly walked to another part of the store.
“What’s stopping you?” my husband’s words seemed to taunt me.
With a few more saunters around the store and a deep breath of courage, I once again got near a woman who was shopping in the clothes department.
Wait a second. Exactly what was I going to say to this woman? How was I going to give away this money? This was clearly more difficult than it appeared to be. (At least without a camera crew around.) I was beginning to realize I didn’t plan this out very well.
While she was looking at the scarves and gloves I pretended to be looking at them too.
“Are you Christmas shopping?” I asked innocently.
Looking up at me a bit bewildered, she weakly answered, “Yes.”
Great. Now what?
I smiled and told her I was too. Then my mouth took over.
“You know, I saw this thing on TV where this really rich guy went around at Christmas time handing out $100 bills and I thought it was so cool. I don’t have a $100, but I wanted to try it, so I’m giving you this.”
The entire time I was rambling, my fingers were digging in my purse and fumbling with my wallet trying to get a $20 bill out. I finally did and reached out to her.
“Oh, no no, that’s ok,” she said as she waved her arms back and forth.
I knew it! Rejection. But I was determined. This woman was going to take my money whether she liked it or not.
“I want you to have it. Really. Merry Christmas,” I said nicely as she relented and took the bill.
She thanked me and gave me a half hug and I practically ran out of the store.
You hear people talk about how great it feels to do a good deed. I’ve felt that before, but on this night I wasn’t so sure. There were too many other emotions involved: fear, rejection, discouragement.
I went home and thought about giving up on the whole idea. I felt guilty for feeling afraid. What kind of person wants to give away stuff and then gets scared about it?
Maybe lots of kind of people. Isn’t that the definition of sacrifice?
Merriam-Webster simply defines it as “the act of giving up something that you want to keep, especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.”
Have you ever wanted to give a large sum of money to an organization or a person as a gift, only to second-guess yourself moments later?
Did the wise men start out on their journey with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, only to doubt giving the full amount to Jesus later? What if they needed that for currency? What if someone got sick? We’ll never know for sure, only that they did ultimately give them.
Did Mary fret when she received the wise men’s gifts? Did she have to run to the corner store to give them something in return? No. More than likely she thanked the giver for the gift. Graciously. Sincerely. Period.
I am trying to do that. Gift-guilt does creep in from time to time, but it’s easier to combat the older I get and the less I need to impress. Giver-guilt evidently is in my gut too, but I’m hoping the more I sacrificially give, the easier it gets as well.
I did eventually give the rest of the money away that evening. I never got the response that the wealthy businessman did, but that is perfectly fine with me. I think I got something better: a life lesson.
Luke 6:38 ESV
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
James 1:17 ESV
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Matthew 2:11 ESV
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.