By Judy Osgood
Because giving has meant so much to my husband and me, I have collected stories about it over the years. Many are stories of spontaneous sharing, like an airport shuttle story in my collection.
The passengers had boarded and the driver started down the aisle collecting fees before the trip began. While that’s the normal procedure, there was a problem that time. A woman with a young child couldn’t pay their fares. When the driver told her that she would have to leave the bus, a fellow passenger stood up, pulled ten dollars from his wallet and invited his fellow passengers to help him write a different, happy ending to that story, which they did.
It took me back to an experience my husband and I had in Athens, Greece, a few years ago. A local bus stopped within sight of our small hotel. The fares weren’t much, and the hotel proprietor said we could take it to the airport. That sounded good to us as it would be a lot cheaper than a taxi.
What he didn’t tell us was that we had to have exact change for our fares. And, of course, we didn’t. We had bills but no coins, and the fee box wouldn’t take paper money. As the bus was in motion before the driver told us that with hand signals and head shakes, we found ourselves in an embarrassing dilemma. Our stress mounted as Dave fished though his pockets and I mined my purse to no avail.
We stood there probably looking desperate and nervously mumbling to ourselves about what to do, when without a word an elderly woman sitting nearby handed me the money to pay our fares.
Both of my stories here are examples of strangers stepping up to help with an immediate financial need. Sometimes giving to strangers is easier than giving to someone we know, which I think of as “relational giving,” a concept that was presented at the FAITHONOMICS workshop that Faith and Money Network co-hosted a few weeks ago. Another co-host was Common Change, a group formed specifically for relational resource sharing. When a Common Change member becomes aware of a financial need of someone they know–perhaps a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker–the group pools money to provide the needed assistance. It might be glasses for a school child, a new transmission for a family’s only vehicle, or a replacement for an old refrigerator that quit working. www.commonchange.com
Who do you think was affected the most by the gifts given in these examples? Was it the givers or the recipients?
If you don’t know, my challenge to you is to follow the givers’ examples and find out for yourself.