I was at one of Jolkona’s All Hands Meetings recently, and one of the ice-breaker questions posed to us was, “What’s one of the kindest things you’ve ever done?” It was an apt question seeing that we were all involved in philanthropy. Because it’s one thing being asked that if you all work for – I don’t know – Goldman Sachs, but it’s quite another when you all work or volunteer at a non-profit. And to be perfectly honest, I had a torrid time trying find an answer. Not because I was overwhelmed by the abundant choice of numerous and extraordinary acts of generosity that I had so compassionately performed; rather, it was for a complete lack of them. But ask me what’s one of my favorite places to eat, or one of my favorite Bob Dylan albums and you can bet I’ll give you several answers straight off the bat (Pho Cyclo, Poquitos, Blonde On Blonde, Blood On The Tracks….).
Why is this? I think it’s simple: food and music are significant parts of my life. Acts of kindness, less so.
Enter Generosity Day.
Generosity Day started with Sasha Dichter, Chief Innovation Officer at Acumen Fund. Struck by his feelings of wanting to ignore the person who had boarded the train asking for money, he one day decided to start what he called the “Generosty Experiment”—a month-long experiment to say “yes” to every single request for help. Later in February 2011, a small group of people participated in a panel discussion during Social Media Week. After the discussion, Sasha Dichter was talking to the other panelists about his “Generosity Experiment”. Inspired and energized, the group suggested that they rally people around generosity on Valentine’s Day, which was just three days later.
Dichter later gave a brilliant TED talk about his experiment. In it he candidly admits that, despite working at a ground breaking non-profit, fundraising for many worthy causes, and caring deeply about the world’s brokenness, he was still a person who said No to generosity. His experiment was an attempt to break that habit.
I think most of us can relate to the reflex of No when we’re approached for help. Or maybe we sometimes say Yes, but in our heads and our hearts we’re thinking No. As Dichter comments, breaking that habit requires practice. And that is what Generosity Day is about: beginning to make acts of kindness a normal part of our lives. But this isn’t some Occupy Valentine’s Day movement. Instead, it’s about reclaiming Valentine’s Day with acts of sincere kindness and love – not obligation. It’s about making a start.
Dichter writes on his blog,
“Give to people on the street. Tip outrageously. Help a stranger. Write a note telling someone how much you appreciate them. Smile. Donate (more) to a cause that means a lot to you. Take clothes to GoodWill. Share your toys (grownups and kids). Be patient with yourself and with others. Replace the toilet paper in the bathroom. All generous acts count!”
And here’s another great thing about Generosity Day, it doesn’t – as Valentine’s Day so shamefully does – exclude those who are single or without love. Single, engaged, married, divorced, or widowed, it calls all of us to participate.
How will you participate?
Here are a few generous ideas for you:
Find out more and go to the Generosity Day website here.
Witness acts of generosity via the Facebook page.
Tweet the love using the #generosityday hashtag.
Share the love with those in need this Generosity Day by making a donation through Jolkona.