Three Creative Microphilanthropy Ideas for our #30DaysofGOOD Challenge

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Three Creative Microphilanthropy Ideas for our #30DaysofGOOD Challenge Three Creative Microphilanthropy Ideas for our #30DaysofGOOD Challenge
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Three Creative Microphilanthropy Ideas for our #30DaysofGOOD Challenge

by Courtney Martin

December 8, 2011

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.

Believe it or not, philanthropy’s etymological roots are not actually focused on finances. The word, which literally means “the love of humanity,” was coined 2,500 years ago by Greek playwright Aeschylus. In one of his plays, the character Prometheus gives two gifts to a group of people living in dank caves: fire and optimism. 

We’re not advocating you go out and build a fire in Union Square, although, on second thought, urban s'more-making sounds delicious. That’s exactly the point. Creative microphilanthropy is all about thinking about things that you love, things that give you a sense of optimism about the state of the world, and bestowing them on others.

For examples of how to give away $30 this month as part of our GOOD Challenge, this week we look to the “secret agents” of The Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy. Here are three inspiring ideas:

1. Comfort food for all. Ellen really likes lasagna. Who doesn’t, right? Which is why she took her money, bought ingredients, made massive, steaming vats of gooey lasagna, and then passed slices out on the chilly city streets. Exhibit A:

2. Music lessons. John loves jamming on his blues harp after a long day at the architectural office. He decided to take his money, buy a few beginner harmonicas, and offer them to homeless folks along with a mini-lesson. Not only did he give the gift of music, but he started a few people down the path of having a new skill. And what’s better, he was able to have an exchange with some people who were struggling economically that had nothing to do with money.

3. Bookmark it. Hsing is super into books. She even has her own personal lending library, so it’s no wonder that she decided to take her cash and tuck it into her favorite books in bookstores, along with little notes imploring people to follow up with her. Exhibit B:

A full six months later, Hsing got this note back:

My name is Eli.  A few months ago, my girlfriend bought the book, 1000 Places To See Before You Die, as a gift for me.  Imagine her surprise when she got home and found your note and gift hidden in the pages!
 
We were so thrilled by the kind gesture and good fortune, and are making plans to see the world together.  Your gift came at just the right time for me and us.  It's something we'll always remember as we tear through the pages of the book and corners of the globe.

So what’s something that lights you up, makes you genuinely giddy, or just plain amuses the hell out of you? And can you give that gift to someone else this month? You never know--it might come at just the right time.  

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