Earlier this year my wife Brittany placed a large cookie jar in our home that contains 365 narrow strips of paper, each one listing a random act of kindness on it. This morning before I left for work, I reached in, pulled out a slip and read it to myself.
“Give up your place in line today.”
As I was dwelling on those words while driving out of our neighborhood, I glanced over to my left and saw a woman behind the wheel who was texting on her phone when suddenly she started merging over into my lane to avoid the slow-moving traffic ahead of her. No turn signal. No courtesy wave. Nothing.
“She almost took me out!” I screamed in my head. “How dare her?!”
I was livid for about three seconds before I remembered the words from that strip of paper: “Give up your place in line today.”
I took a few deep breaths, added some space between her bumper and mine, then reminded myself that just like her, I can sometimes be oblivious to the situations and people around me and need to reach in the jar each day to keep a positive perspective.
Giving up our place in line isn’t always an easy thing to do, and this is especially true in business. After all, we want to be profitable, but we also want to give back when we see a need. We want to stay ahead of our competition, but we also want to promote community. We want to prove ourselves in the marketplace, but not if we have to compromise on how others value our products and services.
So how can artists, creative professionals and entrepreneurs become more generous? I believe there are three key ways we can offer ourselves and our businesses to make a positive difference in the world.
Use Your Time
My friend Andrew is a successful professional photographer and each December, he has coordinated a charity event in downtown Lexington called Help-Portrait. The local event is part of an international effort that brings together dozens of photographers, hairstylists, makeup artists and other creative professionals to find people in need and take their portrait.
I’ve captured remarkable video testimonies of people who were deeply impacted by this event, but one of the stories that moves me the most is simply thinking about all the time, energy and resources Andrew invests to make others feel loved and valued for a few hours on a cold Saturday in December.
I am humbled when I think about all the time Andrew commits throughout the year to connect creative professionals with people in need, and our world is definitely a better place because of people like him.
Use Your Talents
In his book People Over Profit, author Dale Partridge found that there are more than 1.6 million charities in the United States. Of those, over 700 were going out of business every day. “The main reason,” he explains, “…was lack of funding and lack of awareness. They had plenty of passion, but they needed help generating revenue and buzz.”
Following his research, Partridge and one of his friends went on to create an organization that partnered with a different charity each week to raise funds and build support. Today the organization has generated millions in revenue and has donated more than $4 million to charities around the world.
But you don’t have to make or raise millions in order to have an impact. A new logo, some fresh flowers or a few photographs may be all an organization needs to get the attention of new donors.
What talents do you possess that could help an organization grow and where would you be willing to donate your time? I can assure you that regardless of their ability to pay, if you do great work and they sing your praises you’ll not only feel good about it but you’ll most likely get some solid leads as a result.
Use Your Treasures
Our church often challenges us to “Do for one what you want to do for many,” so last year around Thanksgiving, my wife and I had a heart-to-heart conversation about how we wanted to use our wedding video business to make a greater impact in the world. Why not use our business platform to positively influence others?
One idea led to another, and before long we had formalized a plan to do a “Random Acts of Kindness” contest where participants could simply do something nice and be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a prize of substantial value paid out of our own pockets.
We had no idea what to expect in terms of a response, but we were overwhelmed with the feedback that came flooding in. We had submissions from Connecticut to California, but by far the most powerful story came from a friend who decided to donate some clothes to a nurse who was struggling to provide for her kids.
Our friend met the nurse at a gas station to hand off the new items and at that very moment they saw a man collapse and start having a seizure. The nurse was able to immediately provide care until paramedics arrived, potentially saving the man’s life.
There were cookies baked and coffee purchased for police and firefighters. There were sandwiches and jackets and shoes purchased for the homeless. There were people paying it forward at every turn.
While there is no way we can measure how much of a difference was made through the contest, we are confident the impact far exceeds what came out of our pockets and we can’t wait to do it again soon.
We hope that our fellow Rising Tide Society members will connect with us as we all challenge one another to be more generous with our time, talents and treasures.