Thursday, March 12, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness

Journal Post: Weight, 175.6, Money found, 55 cents from walk, 6 cents from residual walk one to the grocery, 27 cents from residual walk two to the library. Total coin denominations found, 23 pennies, 1 nickel, 1 dime, 2 quarters. 9 glass bottles deposited.

Main Post: A recurring theme for the MoneyWalker's postings is the feelings felt when finding money. Descriptive words have included glee, satisfaction, and happiness. In one sense, it seems uncivil to find pleasure in another person's loss. Paradoxically, the larger their loss, the more glee I experience.

One resolution of any pangs of guilt is to look for ways to give things back to society. Thus, one of my activities during walking is to retrieve discarded glass containers (soft drinks, beer, and hard liquor) as I spot them on my brisk walks. It has become a systematic habit to retrieve and carry the bottle to a handy trash container.

But other things besides money and glass bottles are found. Two days back, I found a nearly full pack of unharmed cigarettes. A moral dilemma ensued. Since I don't smoke cigarettes and am convinced of their health risks, should I trash them, or give them to one of my cigarette smoking friends?

Cigarettes are five dollars a pack, monetarily a large find. To give them to someone should create dual happiness, the receiver and the giver. In a few minutes, I arrived at my end-point, a city-bus turn-around. Upon arrival, three somewhat "seedy" looking passengers were waiting. Impulsively I said, "Do any of you guys smoke?" No reply. They must have thought that I wanted to bum a cigarette. Then, I pulled the cigarettes from my pouch, and asked differently, "Does anyone want these?" A long pregnant pause followed. Finally, without expression change, without eye contact, without show of pleasure, one man slowly began shaking his head while reaching for the smokes--no thanks given, none needed.

As I speed away, I reflected on this episode and was reminded of Gretchen Rubin’s popular blog the Happiness Project and her recent post: ” Happiness Myth No. 7: Doing “Random Acts of Kindness” Brings Happiness.

She observed that people that receive random acts of kindness are often on guard, that they are likely to feel suspicious because someone is behaving in an unusual way.

Yet, in spite of the suspicions and doubt of the recipient, or even that the gift of tobacco was of dubious ethical motive, I felt good in providing the gift. Random acts of kindness such as discarding glass bottles or the random act of providing a few pleasurable moments to a down-and-out bus rider all provide a brief antidote to the occasional feeling of guilt that comes from finding happiness from someone else’s loss.

So, as you find money, join the MoneyWalker, find a way to give something back.



  1. Oh dear, my coinage stays in a pot for future use at our house. However, I have found many credit cards, a few driver's licenses and other things with names on them. These are always returned to the owner or the bank. Also, I've picked up many untracable gift cards with value still left on them.

    One of my walking pleasures is greeting those I pass in the mornings with a cheery "Good Morning". These are not always met with cheery replies, and often no reply at all. But usually there is a smile for both of us.

    Nice post.

  2. The Numismatist,

    I find nothing wrong with keeping the loot. After my first six months of collecting, I had $84 dollars and gave each of my 4 out-of-state grandchildren a 21 bucks. We all went candy shopping and had a blast. But on their next visit, they didn't seem interested. My theory was that for today's children, $21 dollars is just not that big a deal. Now I am giving the money to a charity that helps battered women and I will treat my grandchildren from my own pocket. My grandchildren know this decision and seem to approve. As for the various things that are found, one of my forthcoming blogs will address this issue. As for a prelude, one of the things I find are pieces of clothing. Ones in good shape, I wash and then give away.
    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Most people call me Numi. They complained that Numismatist was too long and besides, no one knew what it meant anyway.

    My "finds" go in a special jug that says "Mike's Lucky Pennies". (Hubby) Then they are transferred to the big milk jug until both jars are full.

    I've never thought about donating found clothing. That is a great idea. There sure is a lot of that around here, especially hats and sweatshirts. I would have to stash them somewhere and go back later in the car to pick them up.

    You are right about today's kids. My grandaughter who is 12 gets horribly embarassed by my hobby. But the little ones will fight me for the penny in the parking lot. When they were little they would give those pennies to Grandpa but now they go straight into their piggybanks.

    I'll be waiting anxiously for the post about various found items.