Although most of my blogs have some sort of a tie-in to marketing, I’m taking this opportunity to write about something that has personal meaning to me. Hopefully, this will inspire someone reading it to do the same.
We all see homeless people, or people in desperate need at the side of the road with signs asking for assistance. Although they are hoping for and expecting cash, I have never felt good about giving cash in these circumstances. I guess it’s the cynic in me that knows that some (I’m sure a very small percentage) make lots of non-taxable income in this way and actually live quite well; or that I can’t be sure that the money will be put to good use rather than drugs or alcohol.
By the same token, I can’t simply turn my back completely on these people. After all, there, but for the grace of God and family, I could very well find myself in similar circumstances one day.
My solution is to carry what my family calls a “tzedakah bag” in my car. The work “tzedakah” is Hebrew and means righteousness; although it has come to take on the more common meaning of charity. In Jewish tradition, acts of charity are acts of righteousness.
Each tzedakah bag has an assortment of non-perishable foods (granola bars, non-chocolate candies, small boxes of cereal, microwaveable cup meals like ravioli, raisins, etc…). In addition, I include whatever personal care items I have on hand (shampoos, lotions, lip balm, suntan lotion, razors, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc…). If I have any books I don’t want anymore, extra socks, t-shirts, puzzles, promotional product samples, etc…, these are included as well. All this goes into the gift-bag sized paper bags that I get when I buy things at department or specialty stores. Each one of my family’s cars has one of these bags on the passenger seat floor ready to give out.
I always tell the person I’m giving it to that I don’t give cash, but that I have a bag of food and personal care items they can have if they want it. In over ten years of doing this, I’ve only had one person refuse it outright, saying all he wanted was money and one person who wasn’t sure, but took it anyway. I’ve seen many people peek inside and have their faces light up. The last one I gave out was to a woman who was so excited to get a toothbrush – all her belongings had been stolen while she was sleeping the night before.
I don’t spend a lot of money on this. I request product samples, use coupons combined with sales to get freebies, and occasionally buy inexpensive multi-unit boxed items at WalMart. I am blessed to have some of my vendors willing to give me samples at the end of trade shows (personal care items, tote bags and more) for this purpose.
My challenge to you is to try this. It doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment like my family has made. Just do it once. Pass the message along to your family, friends, employees, clients and more.
If you need advice on getting started, or on how to set up a program like this for your business, school, or organization to make available to its employees, students, or members, just let me know.
For those of you who take the plunge, God bless you.