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day 1: when in doubt, think small.

February 2, 2011

This is going to be harder than I thought.

“Giving stuff away?” you ask, incredulously.  “What could be hard about that?” You sniff derisively (that’s right, I hear you) and wonder why you are wasting your time reading this when you could be watching Modern Family reruns on Hulu.

Take it easy, now.  I didn’t say it was hard, I just said that it was going to be harder than I originally thought.  Day 1 wasn’t so tough, as it turns out (more on that later), but day 76 and day 82 and even day 36 just might present unforeseen challenges.  But before I go borrowing trouble, why don’t I tell you about today?

The gift:  a five pack of Chocolate Brownie Lara Bars.

I've never claimed to be a photographer, but you can read.

Okay, so it’s not my engagement ring, my kidney, or my firstborn son, but this gift was valuable to me for the following reasons:

  • I love Lara Bars but rarely buy them, mainly because they are expensive and I hate to buy something I could make myself (note the operative word “could” — my far more industrious and coincidentally named friend Laura actually has made them).
  • Chocolate Brownie is a Lara Bar flavor I had never tried before, and in a weak moment I threw a 5-count box into my grocery cart.
  • I’d been hoarding the box for a few days, safe from the prying paws of my children, and had planned to eat them for breakfast this week.

In other words, this gift had value to me.

For this experiment to have meaning, I thought it would be important to both 1). give away something that mattered to me, and 2). give the aforementioned item to someone who would appreciate it.

Sidebar — before officially beginning this experiment  I tried to give away a good-as-new white Faconnable button down, size XS, to a good home.  I got absolutely zero takers.  As I type this with hands attached to incredibly gangly arms, it hangs, unworn, in my closet… so message me if your arms are shorter than mine.  The link below shows a similar version, although I did NOT pay $155 for mine.

Calypso Stretch Poplin Shirt.

In other words, a gift ain’t a gift if no one wants it.

But Lara Bars?  Lara Bars are delicious.  They are vegan!  They are gluten-free!  They are filled with fruit and nuts and chocolatey goodness, and I had every confidence they would be appreciated by my buddy Mike.

Mike lives in the woods right off the highway exit I take to get home.  In my warm car, commuter coffee cup in hand, I pass him as he waits at the clogged intersection for donations from passersby.  He’s out there in snow and in 95 degree weather, always wearing shorts.  For anyone who asserts that he is “scamming” people for money, I say he has more than earned it, given his hours and the conditions under which he works.  I give him a few bucks from time to time, bottled water, and often packages of peanut butter crackers (what they call “nabs” here in the south).

When I opened my pantry this morning and reached for my new box of delicious, vegan, gluten-free Lara Bars, I thought of him.

How lovely of me to provide Mike with trans-fat filled, hyper-chemical-ated, preservative-brimming crackers while I treat myself to a two dollar Lara Bar.  As if this guy’s health isn’t compromised enough already from living in the elements and taking whatever substances he takes, I should give him crap to eat?  Oh, no.  Not this time.

There was just one problem:  when I drove to his intersection this morning, Mike, who is always there, wasn’t there.

As I approached Mike’s corner, the dude sitting there looked to be in pretty bad shape.  He held a sign similar to the one Mike holds, but he most definitely was not Mike.  Addled, I drove right past him.

Again, how lovely of me.

Fortunately, I quickly regained my composure and drove back to the corner.  I was lucky to hit a red light so that I could give Not Mike my cherished box of Chocolate Brownie Lara Bars.  He, limping, approached my car as I extended my hand to him.

“These are for you,” I smiled, handing over the bars.  “be safe out here.”

In return, Not Mike grinned broadly at me and said thank you.  And, God bless him, I think he had three teeth.

Nuts, dried fruit, chocolate… chewy, sticky, delicious goodness all rolled into a nutritious bar that will be impossible for him to eat.

Um, enjoy those Lara Bars, Not Mike.  Next time I’ll bring you a pack of nabs, okay?

A few things I learned from Day 1 of my A Gift A Day experiment:

1).  When the giver is ready, the recipient will appear.

So, he wasn’t Mike.  But he was needy enough to stand on a street corner today in the freezing wind, and he was asking.

2).  Just because I want to give it doesn’t mean you want to receive it.

Here I refer to the Faconnable shirt, but — let’s face it I’m pretty sure Not Mike would’ve preferred six dollars cash money to the box of organic, tooth-yanking nut bars he so graciously received from the crazy lady careening around his intersection.

3).  When in doubt, think small.

The desire to do good, for some of us, is paralyzing.  Aiming to get it just right sometimes means doing little or doing nothing at all.  For the next 90 days I plan to think small.

Thanks for showing up with me.  Let’s meet up on Day 2, okay?  In the meantime, watch Patty:

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2011 6:46 pm

    I’m really enjoying your blog. 90 days is no sweat for you, I think you should try this a a whole year!!

    You totally cracked me up about the poor guy’s three teeth trying to eat the lara bars!!! It reminded me of this one time after we dropped Peggy’s car off at the dealership. The girls went crazy and grabbed all of this free juice they had sitting out. On the way home there was this homeless guy on the corner and I offered him one of the bottles of juice. He was really nice and seemed genuinely excited about the juice. I rolled up the window feeling great about myself and Peggy turned to me and said, you know Kate opened up that juice, don’t you? So much for being Mother Theresa 🙂

    • February 9, 2011 5:36 am

      how have i never heard that story?! and i heard you guys were without power last week… i think that qualifies you for some kind of sainthood.


  1. day 9: me fine « a gift a day
  2. day 21: tick, tock « a gift a day
  3. day 35: when no one is watching « a gift a day
  4. not ours anymore, and the nature of growing « Chasing Maybes
  5. out with the same old « Chasing Maybes

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