On Giving For Giving

[Yesterday Afternoon]

As I was walking home from work, a random man came up to me.

“Can you spare me some change?” he asks.

I give him one of my blanket responses, “I don’t carry cash on me”. It’s not that I don’t carry cash on me, but I don’t really feel comfortable giving random people cash to spend on whatever they want.

As I start to walk away, he then asks “Can you buy me a sandwich then?”, since we happened to be outside a deli restaurant. I can’t say that I would always agree or disagree in this situation, but I happened to not be in a rush and was amenable to this.

“Can you get me a meatball sub?” he follows. I wasn’t sure that this particular place offered such a thing, so I ask him to just go inside with me so that he could order. As we approach the door, he follows up and asks “Can you get me a salad too?”, where I respond that I would rather just buy him 1 sandwich.

When inside, he proceeds to order, and asks if I could also get him extra avocado on the sandwich. I agree to that. Since I also regularly eat meals around this time, I also order a sandwich for myself.

“So what’s your name?”, I ask. He then introduces himself as Michael, and tells me that he is waiting for the 1st of the month for some money.

I ask Michael if this was a paycheck, and he hesitatingly responds “Something like that”. I follow up and ask him what he’s doing to get back on his feet. He says that he’s doing odd jobs here and there, but one of the people he works for wasn’t available that day.

Some silence as we wait for our order. “Time seems to flow by quickly, it’s already October” he mentions. While time seems to flow by pretty slowly at this moment.

Throughout this time, I try to think of how else I can ask or assure that he is trying to get back his feet. I don’t come up with anything special, so I just exchange small talk with him.

Our sandwiches are ready, I pay at the counter with a credit card, and as we walk out the door he asks for my name and shakes my hand.

“Take care of yourself”, I say.

“God bless you”, he says.

And we walk separate ways.

When I got home yesterday and revisited this encounter, I was tempted to think about what I gained from it. Maybe I could blog about it, I thought. I also didn’t really feel anything special, and considered that maybe I wasted my time time and money.

I decided to let the moment pass a little longer, and wait to collect my thoughts the next day.

[Earlier Today]

Revisiting the events of yesterday, thinking. “Take care of yourself”, I told Michael as I parted ways with him. Was this just a habitual goodbye statement, or more intentional?

In this moment of giving, why was I thinking about what I received?

I wanted to make sure that he was getting back on his feet. Was this for my benefit, or for his?

Why was I somewhat disappointed when I didn’t feel anything special after giving?

Why did I think I should blog about this?

[Later Today]

“God bless you” he told me. If a god is going to bless some somebody, let it be you.

What would people do without a camera recording their good deeds?

What would people do without a social media outlet to highlight their goodness?

What would people do without anyone seeing what they are doing?

Why do people need incentives for giving? I know why, but still, why?


I’ve written on why we must first learn to Win as a Single Player so that we Don’t Starve Together. I’ve mentioned that I don’t think I will drop everything I am doing and help everyone who comes asking for my help. I can’t save everybody, but that doesn’t mean I should save nobody. There are times where I can give some of myself, to help others do better.

Why do we have to hear frequently about how giving will make us feel good? I think it would be better, and more sustainable, to tell people that giving shouldn’t be about the givers, but about the receivers. Let’s not focus on the feel-good aspect, for this won’t always be the individual response. I may not feel good about giving, but when I am in a position to give, there are other reasons I still want to give and give again.

Giving is not about us; it’s about who is receiving. It may be common human nature to first think about what we receive when we give, what we gain from the transaction. I think this urge may be a part of our current culture, but that does not mean we can’t improve and condition a different culture. There may be others who also feel the same way. But if I want others to change, I should start this change from myself.

There are others ways to give of yourself, which are more subtle than of giving food or money. When we decide to do more than we are told to do at work, for the sake of improvement, and not just doing the minimum for a paycheck, we are giving something. When we try to teach others so that they can do better, we are giving something. What else do we give ourselves to? Why do we give? Even without receiving, why will we still give?

I think it is important to first give to ourselves, before we can be in a position to give to others. “Take care of yourself” I told Michael. I really, truly mean that. To each of our selves, we must first take care of. I may give to you, so that you can give to you now, so that you don’t need me to give to you later, and maybe eventually you can give to another.

Let’s not rely on what others will give to us. We should each be self-sustainable as Single Players. It’s only once we’ve first learned to Win our own, that we can then Win more together, so that we can Win more for those that have lost.

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