In the wealthy city of Washington, DC, to join the top 1% you’ll need to earn 555K. With so many of us in the city making money, it seems we’d have more to give to others. Yet homelessness is increasing. Spend a few minutes in front of the World Bank and the IMF, and you’ll find a number of huddled individuals earnestly waiting for the 5 o’clock food donation. For them, a small warm meal on a chilly winter’s day can go a long way.
Looking at facts, it seems that income doesn’t determine how much you give, so what does? Scientists are saying it depends on our time. Daniel Goleman shared this idea in his TED talk on compassion. He said that: “What turned out to determine whether someone would stop and help a stranger in need was how much of a hurry they thought they were in…”
DC is a busy and stressful city. Here, competition and work is high, and free time is almost non-existent. In a matter of years the use of ‘busyness’ as an excuse for ignoring world problems, especially the poor, became a norm. Despite this, scientist say we were programmed for kindness, and deep inside we know that small acts translate to big changes.
The other day, I saw a homeless man begging for money. People around him scurried by, shaking their heads and moving to the other side of the street to avoid him. Their actions made him visibly upset, and he would say: “I’m a veteran. I fought for your freedom!” Hearing his words and seeing the way he was treated I was compelled to stop. Without having any money to give, I reached for a red apple in my bag and extended it to him. He thanked me and shyly pointing to his missing teeth said he can’t chew it. Nonetheless, he thanked me for stopping, for trying to help and most importantly, for recognizing his presence with a smile. This interaction didn’t last more than a few seconds but it filled the both of us with goodness.
Of course, being good isn’t easy. It takes motivation and good company. Knowing that a problem exists isn’t more likely to make us address it, we must pay attention to it. Nowadays, with smart phones and constant commitments, it’s easy not to notice. Sometimes we ignore the signs of a problem around us simply because we’re too busy to commit. We feel it will take too much time, and while we truly want to help, we just can’t at the moment.
For those feeling this way, here’s an idea. What if we carve into our schedule a moment for caring? I’m talking about a commitment once a week, or once a month, to skip a meal and instead donate the money or the food to someone in need. The benefits are threefold: A) your small action will help a person in need, B) you will place yourself in the shoes of someone who skips a meal due to personal finance, and C) your actions will inspire others to notice. For me, I’ve been bringing this movement to life by taking any food left on my plate to go. Carrying a doggie bag is a commitment, but when I hand its delicious contents to a person in need, I’m always greeted with a smile and appreciation. Making a difference doesn’t require much. A small step is all it takes.
Would you agree?