THE $5 STORY
Upon hearing the story about the “Secret Santa” and Sukhâ€™s idea, in spirit of this mystery philanthropist, about giving $5 to each guest of Seva (this past Saturday) when they leave and to only ask that they spend the $5 on someone else as a random act of kindness, I didnâ€™t think of the impact that it would have on the guests.
However, I was to learn about the impacts from the first guests that left that night. Our first guest was a young couple. When they left, I thanked them for coming in and handed each of them $5 and asked them to spend the $5 on someone else. As I handed the young man the $5, he hesitantly reached out in confusion as if it to think how weird and unusual it is for someone to randomly hand him $5. That was really his only response. I donâ€™t even believe he said anything but he definitely looked down at his hand to make sure that what he was actually witnessing was true. Yes, someone was actually putting a $5 in his hand for free to spend it on someone else. His female friend had the opposite reaction. She reacted quickly with a big smile on her face and responded with an, â€œAwwww.â€
After that interaction, I slowly began to realize what this would mean for the guests. I immediately put myself in their shoes and began to think what if someone handed me $5 while leaving. And I came to this conclusionâ€”how weird??? I mean, who does that? It is pretty much unheard of, especially in todayâ€™s world where we learn to protect each dollar with our life. When our societyâ€™s mentality is to protect and live for each dollar, why would anyone give it up so easily? Yes, $5 is not much in a sense, but considering how society treats money, it is not something given so easily. Rather, it is something we fight for. No wonder, some of the guests were kind of confused when receiving the $5.
The next few guests had mixed reactions. One group of three teenagers had a very jubilant response. They were amazed when they received the $5 and were immediately determined to use the money for an act of kindness. One of the kids said, â€œYou know what? I am going to use the money to buy a homeless person some food right now.â€ Another one in the group returned to the Seva CafÃ© later on in the evening with a new friend.
Another group of about four friends were already amazed by the concept of Seva CafÃ©. When they finished their meal and were getting ready to leave, they each were given $5. One person in the group had a reaction as if she won the lottery. Her reaction seemed to say, â€œThe Seva CafÃ© has no prices to its meals and they give $5!!.â€ I must add she was very enthused about using the $5 for some good. She was already racking her brains, thinking how she was going to use the money. Two others in her group, were not sure of what to do with the $5, so they added the money to the envelope they were handing to me.
The guestsâ€™ reactions were pure as they were spontaneous. Most of the guests were very excited as if they won a prize and were determined to use the $5 for some good. Almost all were amazed and surprised, and confused. Some even asked questions because they were caught off guard. One person asked, â€œCan I use it on my kids?â€
As the night went on the more I thought about what was going, and, while seeing more guestsâ€™ reactions, the more it began to sink in. What was going on was a â€œrecruitingâ€ and an â€œarmingâ€ of a brigade of uplifters. A brigade comprised, at first, of strangers but left Seva as philanthropists. All of this happening in about a half hour. Each guest that walked in, left as potential uplifters. I would say we had about 20 guests that night, so now there are about 20 random acts of kindness in the process. Relatively, that number may seem small, but the impact is enormous.
With each face that lit op upon receiving the $5, I began to think of the next person, the recipient of the act of kindness. When they receive the gift, whether they know what inspired the act of giving or not, their face will light up too. From that interaction, they may even be inspired to give also. On the other side, the original giver will get an opportunity to experience the mutually beneficial act of giving. Their face lit up when they received the $5, and whomever they give the gift to face will light up as well. From that mutually beneficial experience, they may even be inspired to continue with more acts of giving. It is almost like a contagious cycle of giving. An epidemic perhaps. OK, maybe wishful thinking on my part, but why not? Nonetheless, the idea of giving $5 to each guest to spread the wealth is the closest thing to tangibly placing the seed of giving and service into anotherâ€™s hand.
Then the natural question arisesÂâ€”what if they donâ€™t use the $5 as a random act of kindness? Well, this sounds familiar, doesnâ€™t it? Again, the guests were given another choice to become a saint or a sinner and to fulfill the circle of giving. The repercussion of having that choice to make has many reverberations, as the Seva Cafe seems to witness every Saturday. Whether the guest used that $5 as an act of kindness or not, it was still a lesson in giving, a lesson in spreading the wealth, and a lesson in trust. We trusted each guest to be an empowered uplifter and that they would use the $5 to spread the act of giving.
At the end of the day, another lesson in giving and service was learned at the Seva CafÃ©. A lesson that needs more thought and that will take time to fully fathom. Being able to provide the gift of giving to another is an infinite lesson to be learned.
To read the story about the “Secret Santa,” click here: