I was startled when the Starbucks barista handed me my coffee and said it had been paid for. “Who is my benefactor?” I asked. She pointed to a young woman with a slightly Goth appearance who had been ahead of me in line.

Although she and I hadn’t spoken, I suspected she’d been eavesdropping on my conversation with the fellow who was part of a group headed to a church camp, as was she.

I went over to thank her and discovered that random acts of kindness seemed to be her specialty. She modestly accepted my thanks and said she was always on the lookout for ways to share with strangers.

Years before the term random acts of kindness was coined, David Dunn wrote a wonderful book called Try Giving Yourself Away. Dunn first came upon his hobby when he gave away an advertising idea to a railroad. Later he found enormous pleasure in seeing his idea used in ads at railway stations and hotel lobbies.

He writes, “It was thus I made the important discovery that anything which makes one glow with pleasure is beyond money calculation, in this world where there is altogether too much grubbing and too little glowing.

“I began to experiment with giving-away and discovered it to be great fun. I discovered, too, that successful giving-away has to be cultivated. There is a knack to it, just as there is to successful getting.

“Opportunities for reaping dividends of happiness are fleeting. You have to act quickly or they elude you. But that only adds zest to the exercise.”

If you’re in the market for a new hobby, consider the examples of my young benefactor and David Dunn. I have a hunch that the people we see going about their daily business with a smile on their face have already discovered the joy of anonymously making life a little bit better for people who will never repay them—or even know their names.

4 Responses to “Try Giving Yourself Away”

  1. Jane Snell Copes

    My very first “marketing strategy” in 2003 was to give a science party to a silent auction for a charity. It truly launched my business, and I try to make at least one gift like that every year. Although it isn’t anonymous, I’m glad that you endorse this method!

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