A Practice of Giving

Posted in Dharma’s Culture, Social Responsibility.

Image of a stack of dollar bills

A Practice of Giving

Earlier last month I came up with an idea about giving since the end of the year is the traditional giving season. It occurred to me that even though our company gives over $100k/year to charitable organizations, as individuals, we might not be exercising the giving muscle​ in a more personal way. So I withdrew $320 in one dollar bills to be distributed in wads of $40 to each of the eight full-time staff here at Dharma. My thought was to have our employees try a new practice of giving and give away this money to the transient and homeless people that populate the downtown sidewalks of San Francisco. The idea was for a more intimate experience and connection to our own hearts, while helping those in need. My condition was for each employee to add at least $10 of their own money to the pot; that way they had some vested interest in the game.​

We have had some very interesting insights from this experience, especially for those that had not been in the practice of offering money in this way. It is so easy to pass by someone on the street without even a hint of acknowledgement that this is a human being who is likely suffering. ​The act of giving – while making eye contact – and adding a “Merry Christmas​” or even “good luck today” completes this act of compassion, but moreover, when the recipient is genuinely thankful, a feeling of connectedness and of being of service to another is especially validating. Even if the recipient does not express gratitude, the ability to let go of any outcome is part of the practice.

Our COO, Nick Bencivenga, had a touching experience after having engaged with a young man on the street, when a woman who witnessed his kind offering was reminded (with tears in her eyes) that she had missed an opportunity to help someone in need earlier in the day. I am hopeful that this exercise has validated what author and practitioner, Judy Lief​, has written: “The practice of true generosity is rare; it is an exchange in which both giver and receiver is enriched.” May we all awaken to the understanding that we are here not for just our own benefit.

Please note: while Dharma was a Registered B Corp at the time of this posting, it no longer is.