The Value of Connection: Microphilanthropy Challenge #30DaysofGOOD

It's $30 for 30 Days of GOOD, our microphilanthropy challenge. Here are three stories of people who donated money to help people connect.

Things are easier said than done, or so the old adage goes, and we couldn't agree more. That's why we do The GOOD 30-Day Challenge (#30DaysofGOOD), a monthly attempt to live better. Our challenge for December? Creative microphilanthropy.

A young woman slid to the floor next to me in the coffee shop, desperation in her eyes. She was talking on her cell phone, I assumed with a parent, and explaining that her purse had been stolen, that she wasn’t anywhere near her apartment, that she didn’t know what she was going to do. Without saying a word, I reached into my wallet, grabbed a $20 bill, and handed it to her. The look in her big eyes as she moved her gaze up to me was, as the cliché goes, priceless.

Would I have done this were I not charged with finding an act of creative microphilanthropy? I’m not honestly sure. Many of the “secret agents” of The Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy have found over the years that it’s not their finances that are most altered by the endeavor, but their attention. As they walk through the world, conscious that they have agreed to give away a small amount of money, they begin to notice things about the people around them and feel more engaged in the suffering they witness. They begin to chew on questions like: Who am I really responsible for? How do I define “stranger”? What role do I want to play in my coffee shop, my neighborhood, my city?

Parker Palmer, the author of In the Company of Strangers, argues that we must look for “the intuitive hunch that may turn into a larger insight, for the glance or touch that may thaw a frozen relationship, for the stranger's act of kindness that makes the world seem hospitable again.” Very often, this is what creative microphilanthropy is all about: It pushes you to have new eyes, to look for moments when you can make the world seem more hospitable, just by responding to need or pain or loneliness in one moment.

One “secret agent” had a moving conversation with a bartender about the financial struggles she was facing as a single mother trying to pay rent and tuition fees, and decided to leave a tip 10 times what was expected. Another “secret agent” had a great chat with a taxi driver about the many miles he’d traveled to come to the U.S. and how much he missed his family; she felt happy thinking that her gigantic tip might help him get back for a visit. Yet another transformed her donation into small change—pennies, nickels, and dimes—and threw them onto elementary school playgrounds before recess. We can’t help wonder if this might have produced a dangerous scramble among the little whippersnappers, but we love the creativity involved.

One pair of “secret agents” started thinking about the value of connection in our overscheduled lives, which led them to create what they call the New York Conversation Exchange, in which they asked, “How much does human interaction cost on the conversation market?” They paid strangers to walk and talk together—extra if they held hands and shared secrets. Watch the amazing bonds that evolved here:


So as you walk through the world this month, stay alert—and if you see strangers in need of a hot drink, some cash, or just an exchange of pleasantries, consider yourself compelled to respond.

via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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