Sometimes I write or post something on Instagram and I don’t know what kind of response I will get. Yesterday I donated a lot of toys to a wonderful organization called West Side Campaign Against Hunger, and I was extremely moved, for many reasons, by the reaction when I delivered the toys. I shared my experience in my Instagram Stories. My beautiful friend Tatiana called me last night to thank me for sharing the story, inspiring her and one of her stepsons, and also shared her own story of giving. Tatiana was actually the one who inspired me to clean out the clutter as I saw her going through her own closet. She gave boat loads of beautiful clothing to a selfless and deserving mom of four. One of her children had special needs for many years, and this mom used to bake cookies and sell them to earn enough money to travel with her son to get the help he needed. Tatiana, how thoughtful of you and your beautiful heart—you are also an inspiration.
Yesterday, Tatiana’s stepson also watched my Instagram Stories and said, “That’s so sweet! Tatiana, we have a lot of toys we don’t need in the basement. Do you think we could pack them up and take them to kids who need them?” First of all, what a precious boy he is for that to be his immediate and natural response. Secondly, I am so happy that sharing my story inspired others. Several people sent me messages after watching the stories, so thank you for doing that. Sometimes I feel like I’m an emotional basket case when situations like this move me, so I appreciate others making me feel normal.
I began thinking of my friend, Rick, who I refer to on this blog as “The Pipefitter.” You can read my initial post on him here. That may help the following make more sense, but it’s not absolutely necessary. (But I think you’ll actually like reading about him.) In any case, my story of giving and inspiring others reminded me of this post that I wrote when I had very few followers. So I thought it was worth sharing again. Because the world should have more of this, and I think this is a wonderful story that we can all use to make a difference today. Here is my original post…
It's no secret to anyone who knows Rick that he's always been a generous and giving person. Charity is probably the greatest passion that he and his wife, Lori, share. While they have four nieces and nephews, they do not have children of their own. Many couples would have taken that opportunity to live a lavish lifestyle with their disposable income, but not Rick and Lori. They give. And then give some more. And then some more. That's just who they are.
To name a few examples...For years, Rick and Lori have donated to Toys for Tots at Christmastime. And not just a few board games. I'm talking SUV-loads with bikes, Lego sets, dolls, trucks...everything from A to Z on a child's wish list. At present, they spend two days per week volunteering at a local organization called for Food for Others. One day is busy picking up food from grocery stores with a surplus that would otherwise go to waste. The second day is spent packing food at a Food for Others facility and loading it into cars for those in need, whether they are families in an emergency crisis or families who qualify on an ongoing basis. (On weekends, this organization also delivers food to high schools so that children can take the food home to their families at the start of the week.) When they aren't helping their neighbors in need, Rick and Lori are caring for man's best friend. They volunteer for an organization called Dog World Rescue, whose mission is to rescue dogs, nurse them back to health when needed, and find foster and permanent homes. Rick and Lori transport dogs in their own vehicle, which sometimes means a multiple hour trip to save a furry friend. Rick also volunteers once a week as a dealer to veterans playing poker at a local establishment.
When Rick isn't volunteering, he makes it his personal mission to improve the lives of others. One might watch Rick as he makes his way from Baskin-Robbins to Trader Joe's to a casino where he likes to play poker, and label him an excessive tipper. You see, Rick doesn't reserve tipping for fine dining and Starbucks. He believes good service should be rewarded no matter where you are. Rick regularly shops at a local Giant Food. He's made a habit of tipping the cashiers for efficient and friendly service. A few months ago, a young couple who was buying provisions for a football game that afternoon, watched as Rick handed a few bucks to the cashier. The young woman said to her boyfriend, "Did you see what he did? We need to give her a tip, too." Fast forward a few weeks when Rick tipped another cashier at the same store. The cashier replied, "You're the one!" Rick was confused. "The one what?" he asked. "What have I done now?" he thought. The cashier said, "People have been tipping us more and more lately. We were all talking about the guy who started it. You're the one!"
For me, the most important part of this story isn't the money itself. It's about setting an example that makes others see how a few bucks, or anything that's almost insignificant to many, can make a difference. Going back to the tip, imagine if just five people in that cashier's eight-hour shift gave her $2. That's $10 per day, $50 per week, and $200 per month. That's a car payment. That's a great Christmas versus a disappointing Christmas to her child. That changes her life.
Forget the money. Imagine it's a kind word to a stranger, and that kind word warms a heart that has felt empty and alone for weeks. Or holding a door for an elderly person who goes home to an empty apartment every day, and that gesture makes the world feel like a less lonely place, if only for a moment. You don't have to be anyone extraordinary to make a difference in the lives of others.
A few weeks ago, Rick pulled up to a stoplight where a homeless man was discreetly begging for money. Rick rolled down his window and handed the guy a $5 bill and said, "I'm headed to poker. If I lose, I'm gonna want that back!" The homeless man paused, looked up at Rick, initially confused, but then saw Rick's smile and said while chuckling, "Thank you, sir! Not just for the money, but for making me smile. I haven't done that in quite some time."
As humans with good hearts, we all want to make a difference. But with so much wrong in the world, so much hatred, so much negativity, so much poverty, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and think, "I can't make a difference. Why even try?" But you can. It doesn't take money. Sometimes it doesn't even take much time. A smile is free. Holding a door takes a few seconds. The truth is that the world changes one person at a time. Think with your heart. Be the one.