I suppose I can’t really get to the context of this post without a backstory of my own, so here goes.
Back in 2001, I was managing a one-hour photo lab – kids, go ask your grandparents – when the events on 9/11 unfolded. Naturally, like most people, I was shocked and wanted to do anything I could to help in any way I could.
A few days later and with the owner’s approval, I printed out a bunch of 4×6 color shots of an American flag, stuck a magnetic backing on the back of each of them, and sold them for $1 each with 100% of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross. (The shot was mine – see image above – so there were no releases or anything involved.) I then put them on the counter with a small sign so customers could see them when they picked up their orders.
We raised a modest amount in cash which I delivered personally to my local Red Cross chapter, where they asked for the company’s information so that they could send a thank-you letter. I obliged so that the owner could have some kind of record should there be any tax implications.
When it arrived, and thinking it was the right thing to do, I displayed it on the counter as proof to customers that the money raised was delivered and not used for a Burger King lunch.
Until that one customer came in and saw it. They scolded us left and right, up and down, for “making a big deal” about raising and donating the money. They saw the letter as nothing more than a pat on the back during a time of crisis and turmoil when my intention was to simply inform them that the money raised went exactly where we wanted it to go. They just weren’t buying it. If social media was around back then and I had posted the letter, some might have considered that move a case of humblebragging when it actually wasn’t. Totally different circumstances.
Flash-forward to today. As I get older and seemingly more cynical and less tolerant of things that get under my skin, the one thing that really bothers me is seeing people go out of their way with the aforementioned humblebrag. Granted I’ve done my share in the past when it comes to my workouts but as of late, I haven’t and I’m not going to anymore. I’ve come to realize how incredibly narcissistic they
sound are and have decided to put a stop to them for my own good, along with other forms that might fall into the same category. (As a side note, I have pretty much scaled back posting anything personal on social media. We’ve all got problems but I don’t think they all, if any of them, need to be shared.)
But there’s some bragging, of course, I don’t mind.
Finish your first marathon? Great! I’m happy for ya. Hold that medal high – you’ve earned it! Finishing your 11th marathon in 3 months, with each one setting a new PR, and proudly stating that this will get you ready for your 12th in a few weeks? We get it, Achilles.
Win Employee of the Month? Awesome! Winning it again and again and again and saying “another one for the wall”? Let’s not be so modest, mmmkay?
Y’all gotta know when to quit. But there are others that simply want to make me punch my phone/monitor/etc. The one that really drives me insane is when people make it a point to post on social media when they donated to charity or partook in a charitable act.
Here’s where my qualifying story makes more sense. Posting the letter from the Red Cross was done in order to clear the air from a business standpoint; no malice was involved or intended. The letter proved everything was on the up-and-up and all but one customer understood why it was posted. Fine and well.
Trust me, I’m all for raising awareness if it encourages others to be proactive and give themselves. No problems there.
But when you post a smug, unshaven Instagram selfie from Skid Row, one of Los Angeles’ most notorious homeless neighborhoods, and say that you’re “making a difference…out of my own pocket” to feed others, I think you’re fucking insane and frankly don’t give a shit about what you’re doing, if you’re doing anything at all. The proof is that picture of your lunch that you were eating from the comfort and warmth of a Skid Row restaurant posted minutes before that damn selfie.
Also, along with the selfie, posting a picture of someone’s makeshift alley home is just as disturbing. “Look at me, I’m really here. I want everybody to see.”
Seriously. I can’t think of enough awful things to say about that or ways to put you down for being so goddamn insensitive.
(I wish I was kidding about the story above but I’m not. I’ve seen it – more than once.)
Wanna really make an impact, Rich Uncle Pennybags? Then get your pad and pencil – it’s gonna be kinda right.
First, turn off your fucking phone because you won’t be needing it.
Second, with those deep pockets of yours, go back and buy several bowls of that delicious orange chicken, take them out in the alley with the homeless, and sit and share a meal with them. In fact, give yours to someone – you just ate. Don’t just throw them a buck and walk away; get to know these people and listen to them. They are human and most likely haven’t had any positive interaction with an outsider for a long time because most won’t give them the time of day or any kind of respect.
Talk to them, smile with them, help them. Look them in the eyes and try to feel and understand their sorrow. You might learn something – one of them could be a veteran, a father, a musician, or all three of those. They may have incredible stories to tell so shut up, listen and learn.
Finally, when it’s all said and done, and with your phone still off, humbly walk away with the satisfaction of knowing you did something out of the kindness of your heart to help your fellow man and not to raise your social media standing with friends.
Charity is never about you and not everything has to be a Facebook status. It’s about others, and the best way to keep it about others is to not blast your face and tell your stories all over your social media accounts because, believe it or not, people are much better at sensing bullshit than you might think. And once they do, they’ll never look at you the same way again.
And before you ask what I’m doing to be charitable, well, you don’t need to know. That’s the whole point of this post.
Need some attention? Hey, fine. Go buy a puppy. But wanting the exposure at the expense of those living on the streets isn’t just wrong, I think it’s the sign of someone who is completely disconnected from reality and has only their ego in mind, not the act itself or who it will benefit from it.
Do it for reasons, not the “likes” and accolades.
And for shit’s sake, be humble about it.