Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Deed Is Done

Well, we did it. I'd like to say it was completely fulfilling experience that filled us all with joy... but... alas that is not entirely the case. This whole idea, this giving to give (unexpected joy) and not giving to receive (acknowledgement, validation... big or small, thanks) is not necessarily easy. I entered this knowing that. Knowing that some people will be grateful later. Not everyone can process what is happening, and respond appropriately even if they can, in the seconds that our paths cross in the aisles of Target (or elsewhere). I knew that. I did. But, I'm big enough to admit that it was still really disappointing when it played out that way. This exercise might be less about receiving joy through spreading joy, as it is about being humble. Accepting the truth about giving to give and really not giving to receive.

So we started out our mission at our familiar stomping grounds... I knew there would be lots of different people to chose from, and that at Target $5 can be used in about a million ways, from frivolous to necessary.

We went in and got our gift card (and envelope... more on that later... it was a mistake). I had written this little note on a sticky pad to put on the gift card (hence the use of an envelope) to give a little explanation.

I had envisioned this as a hand off type deal. I didn't want to count on having the time or interest (on their part) of being able to explain myself. (I do think this was a good idea).

So, we started scanning our options. This immediately became trying on me. There is no way to do this without starting to fall back on *who is deserving* type categorization. And this is not supposed to be about that. Everyone is deserving of this. So the next shopper I saw was this man (this is taken, oddly, after the fact when he was running back from checkout to price check or exchange something). He had a cart FULL of bed linens. So, I thought... he's spending a lot on necessities he'll probably appreciate it.

When we were next to each other I just handed the envelope over and said "This is for you." He took it and said without pausing "Oh. Thanks." And kept going. I can't write out his tone, but it was surprising.... because... he wasn't surprised. He sounded both like this happened every day to him, and that he expected it.

Well, that was a HUGE bubble burster.

I walked away not knowing if he even realized it was a gift card, or knew to open it before he checked out. I think, he may have accepted it in the way a polite person accepts something they don't really want... strange coupon, religious pamphlet, etc.
And I think my presentation kind of lent toward that assumption. I do hope he eventually opened it, and realized what it was (it was a gift card envelope for crying out loud!... although who knows what I might have put in it).

Lessons learned:
#1 It might be best to present to someone who is actively shopping. Someone with a cart full of stuff on the way to checkout... is ready to go... maybe in a hurry... and more likely not to want to engage.

#2 NO ENVELOPES! Really, I do think that was a big mistake, because it just put that barrier up that made it impossible for someone to recognize what they're getting. These transactions can be very fast, and while I don't need an appropriate appreciative response... I do want to be sure they know it's money and not something to toss! Next time I'm just sticking my sticky on the back side of the actual gift card and handing it over gift card UP!

#3 Giving something unexpected... means you are surprising people... not everyone reacts appropriately when caught off guard. That is part of it.

#4 Wanting to give to give is not the same as wanting to give to get tons of adoration for what a selfless, thoughtful, giving person you are in return. Even if deep deep down in the pit of you... or who am I kidding? right there on the damn surface... that's what you'd really like... and what would make you feel a hell of a lot more joyful. The truth is a hard pill to swallow, my friends.

#5 Next time choose a teenage girl... they are WAY more chatty!


Julie said...

Oh man. I can totally imagine the guy's response.

How about a $5 card for either Starbucks or whatever coffee place out near you? Someone would then need to go the place (unless the pass off occurs there) and would order a coffee/whatever knowing that someone kind out there bought it for them. When they drink that coffee, they can ponder how kind it was that someone did that for them. The problem with Target is that the $5 gift card will just be added to the rest of their bill. If you were at the coffee place, too, you'd get to see their joy and surpise. Or better yet, order your coffee and then hand it to someone else in line or about to walk in.

Awesome that you did it.

Mrs Furious said...

agreed. My first plan was to do just that at the Starbucks in the Target. $5 will almost certainly cover their entire purchase. But, I didn't like the looks of the people at Starbucks at the time... gah! I over thought it and this is what happened. I'm going that route next time for sure.

Andrea said...

So I was talking to my sister about good deeds and brought up your blog and she liked the idea. I told her I would start small like maybe buy the person behind in line at say Mcds thier order at the drive through and get this she laughed like a crazy person had just dropped their pants I was so puzzled and then she bust out youd have to go actually go to Mcds to do that. Yeah I dont get out much but Im on a mission I like the starbucks idea I do go there and they have a drive through:)

Golden To Silver Val said...

I hope you won't mind if I make a suggestion. First, choose either a grocery store or gas station as a place to give your gift. These are places were people feel frustrated about spending money and are trying to pinch pennies as much as possible. How good would it make you feel if you just had put your last $10 in the gas tank or had to use it for bread and milk and here comes this angel with a $5 gift card. You can get visa gift cards at CVS and they are good anywhere. People in department stores usually have some extra money to spend or they wouldn't be there so its not appreciated as much. Just a suggestion to your excellent idea of passing along a kindness. This is so good for kid...such a great learning tool.

Mrs Furious said...

Golden to Silver Val,
Thanks for the tip! I had been kind of limiting myself to places I knew I could get a $5 gift card. I hadn't known I could do that with a visa gift card. That is awesome and could really expand my giving opportunities.

Kiki said...

I love this idea and with any initial trial there is a learning curve....I often give my employees $5 gift cards to places in the mall, Chik Fil A, Starbucks, etc., just so they can buy themselves lunch of something....they LOVE it like I spent a million dollars on a gift for them.

What about that? Go to a mall and give it to someone who works there, like an employee of a store or a janitor, maintenance worker....maybe.

I think it is a genius idea and I can't wait to hear about the next installment!!!!

Marie said...

What about a randomized way of picking people BEFORE you go out so that you can't prejudge..and then your guaranteed to see different types of peoples reaction. Like have kid pick a color and the first person you see wearing it gets the card..or the first person in sweats..or boots..etc..

Mrs Furious said...

I'm on it. I'd been hoping to give to an employee on one of the missions! I do think that they are going to be more receptive, and that they would often be overlooked. Thanks for the suggestion.

I like it! That does help to pre-decide, and will make it kind of fun for the kids to both pick the feature but then hunt for it. Good one!

Deb said...

Women. We've learned that women have faster processing skills (shocking, I know) when receiving some kind of surprise and are better able to give you the "Oh, ma GAWD" reaction that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy. We just did a parking meter project last night, and while most of it was anonymous, the two groups we did end up talking to were one set of females and one set of males. The males responded, "Oh, thanks." The women gushed.

But in the end, like you said, you're going to pick up a lot of interesting lessons from this. Humility is definitely one of them. I just think it's great you're doing it.

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