Social Media and the Flipside of Your Generosity
At the beginning of December, I shared a post about *Christmas. I received a tremendous amount of positive feedback and am very grateful for that. So, in the spirit of stepping outside of my comfort zone, here is another one to follow up. I am sharing this because although I received positive feedback, I also received many questions about number three on my top 10 list. This was even more uncomfortable to share, but hopefully it will help give you a new perspective.
3-Do something kind.
Do something kind for someone, again expecting nothing in return. Whatever you do, DO NOT POST YOUR KINDNESS ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Nothing makes me cringe more then when I see someone posting their “random act of kindness” on Facebook. Last year I saw pictures of a woman posting her “kindness” step by step with photos. She even photographed herself with the poor homeless woman that was the recipient of her “kindness.” No, no, no!
Many readers asked me why I would discourage the social media sharing and stated that they enjoyed seeing inspirational posts from other “do gooders.” I totally understand. Just today, I saw a video about a struggling waitress that received a new car from one of her customers. She had literally been taping the doors shut to drive and transport her disabled son. I cried…it was wonderful. So why would I suggest not sharing that? Well, here is why.
I grew up in a middle class family. We lived in a nice home, had plenty to eat and I never worried if I was going to have clothes to wear. When I was in high school, I worked a part time job to save for college and occasionally buy some “extras.” No major worries.
Shortly after high school, my life drastically changed. It was the mid-nineties and I found myself living well below the poverty line, in a mobile home with an infant child. In my mind, I saw myself as a very capable person that was temporarily in a tough spot. The world saw a young mother, without an education or 2 cents to rub together. That period of my life was very humbling and very challenging. I had to swallow a lot of pride, surrender a lot of freedoms and live in complete, restricted focus. I was determined to create a better life.
I was awarded a small scholarship to a private university. I started my classes in the fall and remember sitting in a room with people my age, but feeling worlds apart. The girls looked like stand-ins for The Dixie Chicks with their glossy lips, boot cut jeans, and highlighted hair. It was a math class and I can remember looking down at my shoes. They were covered in mud. I had to walk through muddy gravel to get to the car that morning. I was wearing tapered jeans from the early 90’s and a shirt my Mom handed down to me. I had on “Mom” jeans, a forty year old woman’s shirt and muddy shoes. I was uncomfortable and wanted zero attention directed my way.
I had a vocal scholarship that required me to be a part of the school’s choir. I looked forward to the rehearsals and had a “friend” in my class. She was always cheerful and helpful. She went out of her way to be nice to me. One day she offered me a ride home. We talked about school, choir, goals, and life. I was feeling pretty anxious when we got close to my home. I did not want her to see where I lived. I did not want her to judge me. I had her drop me off at the neighbors house so I could walk home out of her view. Before I got out of the car, she asked me if I needed any help.
“Help? For what?…” I asked.
She proceeded to offer me money. I realized I wasn’t her friend. I was her case. Her mission. She felt sorry for me. Sure I could use help! I could use a bag of diapers, a full tank of gas, some groceries and why not throw in some boot-cut jeans? I could use a pair of those for sure! I was humiliated and frustrated. I was very capable but just temporarily in a tough spot. I did not want to be anyone’s charity case.
My older sister and I were supposed to be roommates in college. That was our plan. Life had a different plan and we found ourselves living hundreds of miles apart. She was away at a large university. She was also struggling to stay afloat through student loans, scholarships and a part time job. We would talk on the phone regularly and even exchange good, old-fashioned, letters. She loved me like no other and I loved her. My pain was her pain.
I came home from school one early spring afternoon. I was feeling defeated and not even sure if there was a light at the end of that dark tunnel. I found a package on my doorstep. I opened it to find a beautiful, encouraging, compassionate letter from my sister. She packed the box with new dresses, stylish tops, pants and even a few of neck scarves. At the bottom of the box I found stacks of baby clothes for my son. She worked in a department store. For several weeks, she had been setting aside garments for me as they went on sale. She used her small, hourly wages to buy these for us. I sat on the floor and sobbed.
I appreciated her thinking of me. I appreciated the new clothes. I appreciated the love. I appreciated the encouragement. I appreciated the privacy.
Take this scenario to 2015…..
Imagine my sister buying the clothing and photographing it as she made her purchases; laying out the outfits and the sale prices. #helpingmysister #shoppingtime
Then imagine her posting this-
My sister is really struggling. She’s trying to provide a better life for her son (insert picture of the innocent baby.) I am sending these clothes to her and some for the little guy. Keep them in your prayers! #helpingmysister #payitforward
-You are the best
-I am sure she will be so grateful.
-Poor little guy… he’s so cute. We will be praying!
Then she drives from her university to hand deliver the box to me. She shows up at my mobile home and snaps a photo.
“I’m here!” #helpingmysister #payitforward…and post.
She brings it to the door and I open it. I am happy to see her. My eyes are already puffy from crying that terrible day and the poor baby is sitting on my hip. She snaps a selfie of us with her arm around me. Posts it.
-You made it! Yay!
-Poor Lindee. I’m praying for her.
-You are the best
-The baby is so cute. He looks hungry.
-You are an amazing sister. I hope she’s appreciative!
I open the box. Read the letter and sob uncontrollably. She snaps a picture of me holding this box of clothing with a grateful, tear stained face. #helpingmysister #payitforward
I go to school the next day in my new clothes. Everyone smiles at me and pats me on the back.
“I saw what your sister did on Facebook. She is so sweet. That top is adorable Lindee.” or “Hey Lindee! I have been following your sister on Twitter. Let me know if you need anything. I’m praying for you.”
The beauty and kindness of what my sister did would be erased. The intimacy of that moment between us, gone. The “pay it forward” gesture becomes about the payee and not the recipient. We have all had hard times. Some worse then others and some for longer durations. I appreciated the help. I needed the help. I would never have made it through college without the kindness of people and government resources. I finished that chapter of life stronger, more resilient, less judgmental and super proud of what I had accomplished.
My sister is an amazing person in so many ways. I could write a book solely about how she has impacted my life. That day, she was genuinely giving out of the kindness of her own heart. She expected nothing in return.
We should all “pay it forward” every day as we participate in this world. People are much more impacted by real life interactions then social media posts. We should all want our dignity and privacy. These small moments can launch big things. Think of the flipside of your generosity. Often, these are peoples lives, not just kind gestures.
I know this perspective is coming from my own personal experiences. I would love to know what you think? Do you think you should be sensitive to how the recipient may feel?
*(If you missed the Christmas post, here is the link: http://18.104.22.168/the-christmas-lesson-how-the-observations-of-a-hindu-changed-christmas-forever/)