Doubling the Gifting
--by pkiracofe, posted Nov 27, 2010
Having experienced the joys of giving small gifts to others through regular random acts of kindness, I have increasingly questioned whether I was truly being generous or whether I was seeking ego-gratification or some sort of karmic credit to justify living an otherwise ordinary life. To test this concept, I asked myself if I would be just as generous if the acts were truly anonymous, and I would receive no credit.
In seeking out those opportunities, an even more interesting challenge arose - providing random strangers with the opportunity to gift acts of kindness.
The first experience was as a restaurant in Times Square with a pre-fixe lunch that included dessert. I did not want any dessert, so I asked the waiter to find another customer and tell the customer that he was offering a free dessert as a random act of kindness. I specifically made sure he did not mention me or the circumstances, as I wanted him to receive full credit (after all, he could have simply eaten the dessert himself). We got to see him make the offer to a group that looked like tourists, who were clearly shocked, and the smile on his face afterward was priceless. We left a generous tip and departed.
The second experience was at an airport in Minneapolis. I was traveling with my girlfriend, and we had been delayed on two separate flights, which had led to significant scrambling and inconvenience. The airline gave us two $20 food vouchers, but we had already bought food as we ran through the airport trying to make the connection. We decided to enjoy a bottle of wine during our four-hour delay, only to discover that the vouchers could not be used for wine. So switching into generosity mode, we asked the waitress to find some other customers and offer them the vouchers, without mentioning who the vouchers came from. She came back so inspired by the experience that she wanted to give us complementary glasses of wine. We promptly invited her to gift those as well, and departed for our flight!
Sadly, I can not report that I have found a way to *not* feel gratified about these acts, so perhaps I am still acting with selfish motivations. That said, it is interesting to see that the act of giving is a gift in and of itself, and by adding a "surrogate giver" into the chain, the resulting good feelings have effectively doubled with no additional "costs" - not a bad ROI.