I found myself recently outside of the local Wendy’s with our grandbeauty, Juniper, feeding french fries to a gang of great-tailed grackles that had gathered in the parking lot. Almost nothing tickles me more than a bird with a french fry. (I don’t know why. The birds just seem so happy.)
A man, late 30s perhaps, came into the parking lot and crossed over to Taco Bell on the other side. His deep tan, a bandana around his neck and the walking stick he carried immediately made me think “traveler.” Homeless by choice, as in the road is his home. Modern-day hobo. (All speculation, of course … but coming from the viewpoint of someone with experience — the majority of it good — with the phenomenon of “traveling kids.”) The dog that followed him, with a matching bandanna around his neck, kind of sealed the deal on my assessment of their situation.
Traveling Man wasn’t asking for money, but a car passed by him and the dog in the parking lot, then stopped. A passenger rolled down the window and held out some dollar bills. The man said a few words to the dog, who jumped around in circles for a few seconds and then ran over to the car and gingerly took the money with his mouth. He returned to his owner and put the bills in his hand. The owner waved at the car and said thanks.
I was dumbfounded and delighted. Someone who was leaving Wendy’s just then took a dollar out of his pocket and gestured to the man, who sent the pup over to retrieve the cash. Then I gave Juni a few dollars, and the dog repeated his performance for her. All the while, his owner thanked us over and over.
Finally, Traveling Man left the dog sitting obediently by the door while he went into Taco Bell. He came out with a bag, sat next to the dog, opened up the wrapped food and broke each item in half. He ate half. The dog ate half. A Taco Bell employee came out of the restaurant, and I thought for sure he was going to chase the pair. But no, he was just on a smoke break, and he handed the man a few extra napkins and (maybe) some cash.
The man drank something from a cup, then went inside and came out with a cup that he put down on the sidewalk and held upright while the dog slurped. When they were done, he gathered up all of their trash and put it into the curbside bin. Then man and dog sauntered away in the hot Texas sun.
What a blessing to have witnessed that scene! Acts of kindness flowing from all directions — human to human, human to canine, human to nature, etc. This is a much more direct example of philanthropy than is at work in most of the fundraising sector, but it does underscore some very important lessons for fundraisers: 1) If you want someone to give, you have to engage. Is there anything in your messaging that is the equivalent of this attention-getting pup? 2) Show gratitude. Always. 3) Stewardship is key. We impromptu donors saw exactly where our money went that day — and that it wasn’t squandered. Our intentions certainly are not to judge the people we choose to help, but it’s human nature to want to know our donations are being used judiciously.
Finally, whether you’re giving a dollar to a hungry brother or sister, $10 to a collection basket, $1,000 to an organization, or a french fry to a grackle, giving blesses the giver as much as the benefactor. Never forget that, because by facilitating the blessing of giving, you become a blessing yourself.