Unexpected Charity

Here’s a fun scatterthought for you.

First off, happy St. Patrick’s Day. As you can tell by the timing of this post, I have chosen not to go out and celebrate, even though my middle name is Patrick. Most of the people I would hang out with are spread out this weekend, and let’s be honest…an evening of heavy beer drinking isn’t exactly my thing. I went to IKEA with a buddy who wanted to buy some shelves earlier today, and then spent the evening just relaxing and reading. Now I’m watching the Detroit/Vancouver hockey game, which I rarely get to do.

Something unusual happened earlier in the day, shortly after I posted the earlier scatterthought. My doorbell rang, and I went to answer it expecting a guy trying to sell me a gas contract (those people are annoyingly persistent). But when I got there, it turned out to be two teenage girls from a church. They asked me if I’d be willing to trade something for five dollars–preferably, an item that was bigger and better. Of course, I couldn’t turn down that kind of offer. I knew what was going on…it’s the One Red Paperclip phenomenon:


Sidebar: Vancouver just scored to make it 3-1 in the second period. I celebrated by raising both fists in the air in a punctuated “pow” maneuvre while stiffling my urge to bark out a loud cheer.

As I was saying, I was totally in for helping the girls out. No surprise there. So I quickly rummaged through my house and came up with a bunch of candleholders that I wasn’t using. I liked the candleholders, but I wasn’t using them and if I really want to, I can replace them quite easily (they came from IKEA). So I went back to the door and handed the box to the girls, who were clearly very excited. I suspected, given that they were starting out with five dollars, that I was the first person who either agreed to play along, or the first house they tried. And I don’t think they were expecting things to go so well.

One of the girls tried to hand me the five-dollar bill to complete the trade. And for those of you who didn’t see it coming, I told her to keep it and use it toward the next trade.

The first part of it was expected: that was a response to a charitable request. For me, the real thrill–and the real satisfaction–came from the look of surprise and elation when I refused the five dollars.

That’s what I call Unexpected Charity. That’s how I live my life.

And I like that.

To be clear, it wasn’t unexpected on my part…I never intended to collect the five dollars. But sometimes it is unexpected…sometime I don’t realize I’m going to do it until I do. And those are the most satisfying experiences, because they’re just reactionary. There’s no conscious thought…it’s just who I am. And I like that.

I did the same thing last night at Bards with the door prizes. We don’t usually have door prizes at Bards, but I felt like giving away a prize because we had a large audience. A few months ago I bought a two-pack of half-yard-of-ale beer glasses, which are far more fun than practical. I was saving them for just such an occasion.

I announced ahead of time that we’d have a door prize, but I only brought in one of the glasses and left the other in the car. So when I announced the winners, the audience had no idea that there were more prizes than I’d let on.

Unexpected Charity. It’s fun. And rewarding. And, hopefully, inspiring.

This extends to my constant picking-up of cheques when I’m out with friends. It’s only fun when someone’s taken by surprised. So after the show last night, when someone asked if any of us had change for a five so that she could pay for her drink, I just grabbed her bill and added it to mine.

Now, the funny thing is that she should have realized that I would react that way, since this is something of an established pattern with me. But she didn’t, and to be honest, I’ll be happy so long as she and others around me continue not to realize it.

Man, that was an unexpectedly charitable 24-hour period. Not unusually so…I’d like to think this is pretty run-of-the-mill behaviour for me.

This past week, I’ve been wondering about some of the choices I made in recent years, and what might have been different if some of those choices had swung the other way.

I still wonder about those choices, but if this is who I am today then I can’t complain about them.