The Radiance of Giving

A couple of years ago I took a seasonal job in Berkeley, California. Like most things, I love diving right into the adventure without sorting out all the details ahead of time. In this case, I arrived with the job lined up, but not the housing.

Being only a summer gig, I felt that if I showed up a few days early before training, I could probably set myself up somewhere with cheap rent, camping, or a work exchange for a place to stay.

Logically, it would make sense to have something not so minor to be planned for ahead of time. I mean, what if I don’t find a place or even worse, have to pay my life earnings to rent one in such an affluent area?

I put myself into positions like this due to my sense of security. There are plenty of factors that play into this; being a white male with some savings, with a supportive family, and friends who would help me out if needed. Realistically, if worse comes to worse, I or someone else could pull resources together to keep me on track.

So, if I personally have the means or otherwise ability to plan ahead and line things up, why would I put myself through this artificial vulnerability?

Because of love, generosity, and desire to connect.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for countless acts of thoughtfulness and love. As a species, we depend on each other; but we strive for independence. This independence is encouraged by society, and although through technology we’re the most “connected” we’ve ever been, I’m concerned that we have never felt so alone.

After arriving to the general area of my employment, I didn’t waste any time with my residence search. After determining that rent was way beyond my pay grade, I figured I could see if any helpful citizens would let me camp in their backyard in exchange for me helping with projects that they may have. I posted on Craigslist (bad idea), and also wrote on the inside of a pizza box. The message basically asked if I could camp in their backyard for the summer.

Sitting outside a grocery store with my makeshift sign, helped me realize that this method of searching didn’t earn me a home for the summer, but hit me with something much more valuable.

Why didn’t it land me a home? Well, nobody bothered to read the sign.

As people approached and offered me money or food, I was as surprised as they were when I turned it all away.

“I’m just looking for a place to stay for the summer.. I have my own tent, I just need a yard”; I would say.

This immediately was followed by them glancing at the sign to see what they were doing wrong.

As I turned their gift away, I made matters “worse” by continuing to say that I had plenty of food and I didn’t need any money.

After a few hours of this, and as nightfall was approaching, I came to terms that I needed to find a place to stay that evening.

I decided to walk around the area hoping to find a nook to sleep in, so I could remain unseen until the next day.

No luck.

A lady pulled over and asked if I was lost, in which I told her I was looking for a place to sleep. She promptly told me where a lot of homeless people camp, and after giving thanks, I headed in that direction.

I arrived to a parking lot with a few tents in it, and thought, this would be a great place to spend the night.

I was there less than 5 minutes before I was approached by a guy from one of the tents. He introduced himself as Preston and asked if I was hungry as he handed me a bag of premade salads. He followed up with saying that someone dropped these salads off about an hour earlier, and it was too much for him or any of his friends to eat.

I was on a roll from before, so I politely declined even though I was hungry.

It was dark by this point, and using the streetlights, I started setting up my tent. I smiled to myself as rats were running this way and that. Preston said “yeah, there are a lot of rats around here, but they don’t bother us too much”.

Him and I talked for about 25 minutes before a nice BMW drove into the parking lot. A man stepped out and then preceded to open his back door, grabbing a large box.

“How are you guys doing tonight?”, he said as he started over with the box.

After telling him that we were well, he told us, “I just got out of a business meeting and there was extra food, and I didn’t want it to go to waste. I knew you guys were here so I figured it would be better to give it away than to toss it.”

As he set down the box, I noticed how full it was with apples, oranges, granola bars, packaged sandwiches, cheese sticks, crackers and some other miscellaneous items.

I excitedly expressed my appreciation, and we talked for a few moments before he got into his car and headed home.

Preston said, “There’s way to much food here so take as much as you want. Otherwise, it’ll probably go to waste.”

I proceeded to start packing about a third of the box into a bag I had, and gave the rest to Preston. We finished up our conversation and then got into our tents.

That night my mind was racing.

I wasn’t fearful of my location for sleep, nor was I worried about not being able to find a place to stay for the summer.

The only thing I could think about was the weird sense of defeat that I created from turning away peoples’ generosity, and the love that I felt when I received it.

The best way I can describe what happened, is if you imagine you just knitted your friend a sweater for their birthday. It took you 67 hours to complete the sweater, and you love how it turned out. On their birthday, they open it up, look at it, and say, “no thanks, I don’t need a sweater”.

Imagine how that would make you feel?

Outside of that grocery store that day, I saw this expression on so many faces when I took away their opportunity to give. I was effectively stealing their chance to make a positive difference in someone’s life, which created an unfulfilling moment in theirs.

That night as I lay there in my sleeping bag, after realizing the magnitude of my situation, I decided from then on that I would not be an impediment in this exchange of generosity/love.

Upon awaking the next morning, I packed my gear and grabbed the bag of food from the night before. I haven’t been so excited in awhile. That morning, I was going to walk around and give the food away until the rest of it was gone. My heart felt even more enriched as I passed out the food to hungry folks around the neighborhood. Their animation in response to the food provided, made me really feel like I was onto something.

Generosity pays.

People feel such warmth in their heart when they can provide for others. We mustn’t take that away from them. Being someone on the receiving end of that act of love, you feel this sense of support. The acknowledgement and care gives way to hope. It’s a beautiful reminder that we’re in this together.

If in a fortunate position in which you can pay it forward, the magic that is felt from providing, is undeniably a lifting experience. And for the receivers, the cycle of love continues.

This of course doesn’t only pertain to money. Donating your time, extra items, or positive messages to those around you can have an incredibly monumental effect.

We’re in this together and kindness matters.

My heart flutters with the countless acts of love that I have received throughout my life. Yet, I’m only one guy and I can only be in one place at a time, so how do I make a big difference?

Because of this, I recently created this message on the back of my car as I made my way to my next seasonal job.

“Pay forward $5 or request it πŸ’š. Venmo @spread_love”

My goal is to create an opportunity for others to either give or receive, unconditionally. Five dollars may not seem like a lot, but to some, it can make a huge difference. At the very least, this love and consideration changes lives.

As a simple guy with my basic needs met, more money has an inverse effect on me. If I have excess funds, I make it my goal to give it away. Making an impact is the goal and creating community is the dream.

I’m excited. I have enough money in my bank account to give $5 to 83 people. The best part is that if I give enough money away to where I can’t cover my bills, I can always just ask people for a loan which continues this cycle. Isn’t it lovely? Of course, I have faith that everything will be alright. Maybe naive, but worth the risk.

I’m proud to say this experiment, although in it’s infancy is a success. I feel much better through these exchanges than I ever did with money in my bank account.

But I’m only one guy and I need your help. If you would like to be a part of this web of caring, you’re welcome with open arms. Need $5? Please request it. Know someone who could use $5? Request it and pass it along. Want to contribute $5 to be passed on to others? I’ll send it along πŸ’š I’m not keeping any money that comes through – my goal is to end up with less money and more fulfillment.

If I’ve learned anything so far in my 28 years on this planet, it’s that it’s not about what you acquire, but what you leave behind. Make your difference πŸ’š

If you want to be a part of this movement, you can receive or contribute via venmo @ spread_love

If you don’t have venmo – no worries because you have a big heart. You can still make a difference and if you need assistance, remember to reach out for help. As displayed above, more people would love to help you than you could possibly realize.

Feel free to comment about exchanges that you’ve experienced or seen in your life. I’d love to read them πŸ₯° Spread love πŸ’š

– Jacob

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