A (Really) Small Gift For A Big Occasion
Posted by Nipun Mehta on May 26, 2009
Gifts are fun, both to give and to receive. And the best gifts are the ones that come bundled with a personal story. To create a meaningful story, though, requires a shared context. As one deepens in the art of gift-giving, there is a discovery of much larger shared context, where the line between the giver and recipient is blurred. That's actually when things turn very fun. :)
On my birthday, every year, Jayesh-bhai usually takes a gang of children to do small acts of kindness. A slum child practices philanthropy, an unsuspecting stranger practices receiving a gift, and ocean away, my journey somehow seems elegantly intertwined with those interactions. And they all call me on the phone to sing "happy birthday" -- a message that tends to stay in my answering machine for the whole year.
The beauty of such gifts is that it's natural to pay it forward. We now do this for most our family events from 10th birthday parties to baby-showers to white-envelope Christmas to wedding proposals -- you name it! Pretty soon, you become like that hammer looking for the nail ... just itching to express your generosity at any given excuse. :)
Around CharityFocus circles, it's common practice to celebrate occassions with a gift of service. And so, when two warriors of kindness -- Rahul and Asha -- got married in early May, it was no surprise that small groups of people everywhere -- like Pancho in Berkeley -- dedicated wonderful acts of kindness to bless their sacred union. If I'm not mistaken, everyone at the wedding even got a Smile Card. :) It's truly a beautiful thing to witness.
There is one issue, however.
When everyone starts doing such acts of kindness, there is a subtle competition that sets in -- I want to do the coolest act of kindness, I want to have the most heart-tugging story, I want to step-it-up in the most radical way. Of course, kindness being what it is, you can only go so far with that motive, but still, I often find traces of that tendency in my own self. :)
Hence, this time, Guri and I brainstormed a few small (almost tiny) kindness acts for Rahul and Asha -- which, of course, would be delivered with big love.
Right as we headed out of our apartment, that afternoon, we encountered an unexpected, small, mundane, and uncreative act of kindness that required no money and took all but two minutes of our time: we threw away our neighbor's trash. Since we live on the 4th floor, our neighbors leave their trash bags in front of their doorstep sometimes, and so Guri and I just picked it up, left behind a Smile Card and threw it away as we were headed down. I've done it many times before. No special story, but it was done especially whole-heartedly, was dedicated to Rahul and Asha and felt innately satisfying.
Over the week, we executed a few more small acts, and the story could've easily ended there.
Yet it just so happened that right before the CF retreat, we had bunch of empty cardboard boxes outside our apartment door. They were bulky boxes that never quite found our empty hands to trash it. The next day, I opened the door and lo and behold, the boxes were gone and in its place lay a used Smile Card.
It really floored me. It was the first time that someone in our own apartment complex tagged us! We've performed several such acts in our neighborhood, although we've never had the occasion to explicitly discuss Smile Cards with anyone. It was really something to see that little Smile Card right in front of our own door step.
Gandhi once said, "Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it." Because if you do it with full heart, its ripples just might rock you, your neighbor, and perhaps even the world.