Updated: Sep 16, 2019
You can’t get something for nothing. Except you can – sort of.
A few years ago I ran a workshop where, among other things, we were focusing on compassion and kindness. Before the workshop I e-mailed participants and asked them to think of an amount of money that they really wouldn’t be bothered about if they accidentally lost it. For example, if you dropped a 5p coin and it rolled away into an awkward place, would you bother to get down and pick it up? If that coin was 10p, would that make a difference? Or 20p? I asked them to think of the biggest value coin that for them could be lost without upset or concern. I then got them to bring a coin of that value to the workshop and post it into a sealed container. No-one knew what anyone else had brought in.
We had 20 people in the group and we collected £4.05 in our pot. This meant that people, on
average, were happy to lose about 20p without batting an eyelid.
I then asked the group what they thought we should do with the money, and there was general agreement that we couldn’t get far with such a small amount, although they were quite surprised at how quickly ‘nothings’ could add up. I had done some research and presented them with some alternatives for using this group money, that they had previously agreed was of no real value to them.
1. We could provide two families with mosquito nets, the most effective way of saving lives from malaria.
2. We could pay for 12 people to be treated for parasitic worms, infestation with which
permanently devastates the lives of those infected, where one treatment can eliminate the
3. Or we could pay for 36 children to receive treatment for dehydration following serious
diarrhoea caused by drinking water from contaminated supplies.
All of a sudden ‘nothing’ became something, as the group had a serious debate about which cause should receive the £4.05.
In the end the parasitic worm initiative was chosen, because no-one had been aware of this problem before and they figured therefore that the charity perhaps had to work harder to get donations. Then someone said it was a very small amount to send, and offered to double it. Then someone offered to double that. Finally we sent a significantly bigger donation and the group seemed noticeably excited and uplifted.
And so we made a pretty decent ‘something out of nothing’ and everyone left feeling really good.
Such is the currency of kindness.