Although most of what I write about has some sort of tie-in to marketing, I’m taking this opportunity to write about something that has personal meaning to me. Hopefully, this will inspire someone reading it to do the same, especially given what's happening with our economy in this time of COVID.
We all see homeless people, or people in desperate need at the side of the road with signs asking for assistance. Although they may be hoping for (and expecting) cash, I have never felt good about giving cash in these circumstances. I guess it’s the cynic in me that knows that some (I’m sure a very small percentage) make lots of non-taxable income in this way and actually live quite well; or that I can’t be sure that the money will be put to good use rather than drugs or alcohol.
By the same token, I can’t simply turn my back completely on these people. After all, there, but for the grace of God and family, I could find myself in similar circumstances one day; especially now that we've seen exactly how fragile our economy really is.
My solution is to carry what my family calls a “tzedakah bag” in my car. The work “tzedakah” is Hebrew and it means righteousness; although it has come to take on the more commonly accepted meaning of charity. (In Jewish tradition, acts of charity are acts of righteousness.)
Each tzedakah bag has an assortment of non-perishable foods (granola bars, non-chocolate candies, small boxes of cereal, microwaveable cup meals like ravioli, raisins, etc…). In addition, I include whatever personal care items I have on hand (shampoos, lotions, lip balm, suntan lotion, razors, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc…) as well as other essentials and entertainment items like socks, t-shirts, puzzles, decks of cards, a towel, etc… - whatever I have extra of on hand. All this goes into the gift-bag sized paper bags that I get when I buy things at department or specialty stores or any extra tote bags I may have available. I keep this bag in my car ready to give away.
I always tell the person I’m giving it to that I don’t give cash, but that I have a bag of food and personal care items they can have if they want it. In over fifteen years of doing this, I’ve only had one person refuse it outright, saying all he wanted was money and one person who wasn’t sure, but took it anyway. I’ve seen many people peek inside and have their face light up. Once, I gave one to a woman who was so excited to get a toothbrush – all her belongings had been stolen while she was sleeping the night before. (This one broke my heart.)
I don’t spend a lot of money on this. I use product samples that I get in the mail, I buy inexpensive items at retail outlets and am blessed to have some of my vendors willing to give me samples at the end of trade shows (personal care items, tote bags and more) for this purpose.
My challenge to you is to try this. It doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment like I've made. Just do it once. Pass the message along to your family, friends, employees, clients and more.
If you need advice on getting started, or on how to set up a program like this for your business, school, or organization to make available to its employees, students, or members, just let me know.
For those of you who take the plunge, or do other acts of loving-kindness towards your fellow human beings, God bless you.