Random Acts of Microphilanthropy

One of the ideas I’m advocating in the Book Currently Known As Plenty is to create a small fund of charity fun money. I think the bulk of our giving should go to 1-2 causes we strongly support and with which we will also volunteer extensively (like your church). But in the context of buying happiness, there’s nothing quite like going through life on the lookout for ways to make the world better for $5 -$20.

So here’s a question for you all. I give you $20 in the morning, and tell you that, by midnight, I want you to spend it in a way that makes someone’s life a little better. What would you do? Some ones I just came up with:

  • Leave a ridiculous tip
  • Buy lunch for your office intern
  • Pay the bus fare for someone whose pass expired
  • Give a friend a magazine subscription
  • Donate some new boxes of crayons to a classroom
  • Anonymous flowers

What else?


8 thoughts on “Random Acts of Microphilanthropy

  1. Give $20 to someone today? That’s a tough one. Most people I know have all of their needs met. I would probably buy a book for someone… or an educational toy or DVD for a child… Or leave a grocery store gift card on someone’s door.

    We keep a change jar to collect coins thorughout the year and give it away at Christmas time. Sometimes we’ll throw ina few bills, but it’s mostly change. This was originally inspired by a book called ‘The Christmas Jar.’ It was fun routine as a family to stash the change all year. We were micro-giving all year long. Then around Thanksgiving we’d start thinking about how to spend it… whose life to bless. This year it all went to Kiva, but it’s also fun to leave a jar of change on someone’s doorstep.

  2. I was going to suggest buying lunch for a homeless person, similar to Brie’s suggestion. Not sure if they’re still around, but there was an org in Pittsburgh that gave out umbrellas on rainy days: http://1000umbrellas.org/

    Also, a friend once surprised me by ordering a book she thought I’d like from Amazon and having it shipped to my apartment. I was so delighted I decided to spread the goodwill and ordered another book for a college friend who lives in a different city. That way we could compare notes on the book during our long-distance phone chats (not that we don’t have plenty of other stuff to chat about).

  3. Recently at a sad and bleak waiting lounge in a radition clinic for cancer patients. I say $20 bucks buys a better coffee bar with different flavours (like caramel and vanilla) and just hang out and shoot the breeze and talk stuff. Better than institution coffee choked down on an empty stomach filled with fear.

  4. Similar to the umbrella project… I always thought I’d like to buy gloves and mittens and have them available to randomly hand them out to people (especially children) that I see in the winter who aren’t wearing any. But today that would be inappropriate since it is near 60 degrees.

    The other thing that comes to mind is the times that I’ve been in a checkout line where someone didn’t have enough money and had to leave off an item or two that had been in their cart. I specifically remember one time when a lady was paying for food using a small jar of coins, and had to put back a bag of potato chips and one other item. I’d love to tell them to wait, have the clerk scan the item into my order, and then give it to them so they can leave.

  5. Buy 4 $5 grocery store gift cards to hand out to the folks panhandling at freeway entrance ramps. We usually keep a box of cereal bars in the car to hand out, but the $5 gift cards go a bit further.

  6. I’d send $20 to Heifer International, for a flock of ducks. Ducks provide a family in China with eggs to eat and sell, and the ability to have more ducks, so they can ultimately send their children to school etc. I found out about this organization when my son went to a birthday party and we were asked to donate to them in lieu of a gift for the boy.

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