The holidays are quickly approaching and we all have plenty on our minds. Between end of year work responsibilities, holiday shopping, and various social occasions, a thoughtful act for a stranger may seem impossible to squeeze in. However, I was recently reminded of just how important acts of kindness are – whether planned or random.
True story — on Thanksgiving only a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I loaded up the car with the puppy, some games, and all of the food to cook a full meal at my dad’s house. We found ourselves in a total downpour rainstorm that was very un-characteristic for Southern California. The roads were nearly flooded. With minimal visibility, I failed to see the piece of metal that proceeded to puncture my car tire, and we had no choice but to pull off of the very busy highway into the mud. My husband did the best he could with my flimsy car jack, but had no luck propping up the car as it sank deeper into the mud. Defeated, we jumped back into the car soaking wet, and wondered how long it was going to be before we were able to get back on the road. Before I even had the chance to finish dialing roadside assistance, we heard a knock on the window. A gentleman in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops asked if everything was okay. I told him not to worry, we just had a flat tire and I was calling roadside assistance. He shook his head and jogged off into the rain, I figured he was gone to go join his family like everyone else on the holiday. Instead, within a couple of minutes he returned with a professional car jack and a set of tools that were in his truck. No more than 15 minutes later our spare tire was on and neither of us could believe our luck. My husband tried to give him $40, but he refused. He said “I didn’t do it for the money, now go see your families” and that was that.
None of my family members at Thanksgiving dinner could believe that someone had stopped to help two total strangers in the pouring rain, beside a dangerously busy highway, on Thanksgiving nonetheless, but it’s true! Then over the next few days as I shared the story with others, I began to notice something else — almost unanimously everyone I spoke with admitted “If it were me, I probably wouldn’t have stopped.” I can’t say I would have done any differently (clearly, I’m no pro at changing a tire anyhow) but if it hadn’t been for that one person who DID stop, our Thanksgiving plans would have absolutely been derailed. I’m not saying everyone has to do something so grand, and arguably risky as what that benevolent stranger did for us that day, but there are definitely things we can do to spread kindness to those around, both as an individual and along with your office team or business.
Here are a few ways that you and your business can help others in need.
Lend a Hand — A couple of weeks ago our Marketing Coordinator arranged for the Academy Team to spend the morning volunteering at a soup kitchen. For about three hours we distributed clothing, assisted with set-up and clean-up of the meal line, and served over 200 meals to people of the community. A few hours out of a single work day is a small sacrifice to make in order to lend our support to a worthy cause, and we left a stronger and more grateful team because of it. There are a number of ways your office can get involved, whether it be serving food like we did, building houses, tutoring, etc., the opportunities are endless. If it’s a good experience, it can even become a regularly scheduled activity.
Share Your Expertise — Is your business in a position to provide select services at a reduced or no cost option for a charity or non-profit organization? For example, some attorneys chose to partner with local nursing homes, churches, and community centers to provide consultation services or legal advice at reduced fees or pro-bono. No matter what business you’re in, there is someone who can benefit from what you are comfortable offering.
Collect Donations at the Office — If you’re strapped for time but looking for a way to give back, partnering with an organization to collect either material or financial donations is a great way to get the office involved without being too time-consuming. Although a clothing drive is usually the go-to, you’d be surprised how many charities are in need of blankets, towels, toiletries, shoes, tents, sleeping bags, etc. Even business/office attire is appreciated by organizations that help prepare people for job interviews.
Although the gentlemen who helped us on the side of the road was an inspiration to me, we shouldn’t wait for someone to help us before we look for opportunities to pay it forward. Hopefully you take some time this holiday season to make a difference in the life of someone else, you won’t regret it.
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128