Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday Toast - Two paying it forward stories

Money itself is just pieces of paper. What gives meaning to that paper is our thoughts, feelings, and stories. --Agent Krafchin 

Believe it or not, one of my dreams is to be philanthropic in my golden years.  I enjoy having a career, a purpose and being duly compensated for my time, talent and experience.  My [not so much anymore since I'm sharing it with you all] secret fantasy is to have so much wealth in reserve that my husband and I take the time to read all of our requests/proposals that have poured into our foundation in the months before deciding who to bless that week.  I'd love to gift money weekly to deserving people, families, institutions, and other foundations.  

I payed it forward several years ago when my friends gifted me cash for one particular birthday.  I was greatly honored by the gesture of love and personally embarrassed about the amount that I received.  I never told anyone about the actual amount, so what I did was gift a portion of that birthday cash to a struggling ministry in my former church.  As it turned out, due to my gift, that ministry was able to move forward with a project that was greatly needed to empower young women that I was able to witness with my own eyes.  The feeling that I experienced from being able to help in that small way was almost indescribable.  I have seen many interviews with Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet talk about their desire and plan to live the remainder of their lives being philanthropic.  The spark in their eyes and the passion in their voices when they spoke about global vaccines - their passion - was infectious. I thought "I want to feel THAT.  I am no billionaire but I can certainly do my best to help."  So I did and it was fun.  Would I do it again?  I sure would, but next time will be more structured in every way.  I have a plan.

Please read about one outstanding Japanese business and one conscious young woman from NYC ,woop-woop, who are paying it forward in their unique ways.

Story #1
To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved. --George MacDonald 

Ogori Cafe: Service With a Surprise

Cabel Saasser brings word of a mysterious cafe that he recently experienced in Kashiwa in Japan. Located inside the Urban Design Center Kashiwa-no-ha, the Ogori cafe looks innocuous enough, but holds a surprise in store for its patrons. In a nutshell, you get what the person before you ordered, and the next person gets what you ordered. Thus, if you’re in on the game, you can choose to be either a generous benefactor, and treat those that come after you – or try your luck at being cheap. Either way, it’s an interesting experiment that explores surprise, kindness and encourages interactions.
Cabel describes a scene from the cafe:
As I sat down to enjoy my surprise Appletizer, loving this insane idea and wondering what would happen if you tried it in America, a Japanese woman approached the cafe. Since she could actually speak Japanese, she could read the large sign at the front and, fortunately or unfortunately, got advanced warning of what she was in for. Before making a final decision on what to order, she quietly snuck up to me to try to ask me what I had ordered, knowing that it would be her unwavering refreshment destiny. The staff put a quick stop to her trickery, and I didn’t answer.
Of course, regardless of what she ordered, she got the orange juice I ordered a few minutes earlier. But here’s one of the moments that make this experiment cool: she actually chose orange juice, just like I did. So she got what she wanted. Ogori cafe synchronicity!
Before we left, there was one last thing hat had to be done.
Mike went up to the cafe, slapped down a couple thousand yen (~$25), and ordered a little bit of everything: some ice cream, some snacks, some candy, some drinks, a Japanese horn-of-mysterious-plenty intentionally set up as a shocking surprise for the next lucky customer. (After his order, Mike received single iced coffee.)
As we walked away from the cafe, with just the right amount of delay, we heard an extremely excited “arigato goazimasu!! thank you so much!!” yelled in our direction, from an ecstatic mom and her equally excited young son. They truly appreciated the surprise.
It was so worth it.
For the record, here are the rules of the Ogori cafe:

  1. Let's treat the next person. What to treat them with? It's your choice.
  2. Even if it's a group of friends or a family, please form a single-file line. Also, you can't buy twice in a row.
  3. Please enjoy what you get, even if you hate it. (If you really, really hate it, let's quietly give it to another while saying, "It's my treat…")
  4. Let's say "Thank You! (Gochihosama)" if you find the person with your Ogori cafe card.
  5. We can't issue a receipt.
You see rules #3 & #5 present a problem.  I'm funny about who I eat or drink after and I always get a receipt.
Story #2

Seeing How Far $100 Can Go

Courtney E. Martin is a writer, teacher, and speaker. This fall, Beacon Press will publish her next book, DO IT ANYWAY: The Next Generation of Activists, in which Courtney profiles eight people under 35 trying to make change. In the spring, Seal Press will publish her first anthology, co-edited with J. Courtney Sullivan, entitled CLICK: Moments When We Became Feminists.

She is also a widely-read freelance journalist and regular blogger for Feministing. She is a Senior Correspondent for The American Prospect Online and her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Newsweek, and the Christian Science Monitor, among others. 

Courtney’s first book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women was awarded a Books for a Better Life nomination and led her to speak at colleges and universities across the nation.

Among many others impressive credentials Courtney was awarded the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics and a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. Courtney has an M.A. from the Gallatin School at New York University in writing and social change and a B.A. from Barnard College in political science and sociology. 

Courtney also founded The Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy, which is what this second story is about.  Ms. Martin is not a civil rights leader. She’s a Brooklyn-based writer who, five years ago, was shocked to find herself in possession of a six-figure book advance. She wanted to give a chunk of it away, but was not sure how. So she decided she would make it someone else’s problem — nine other people’s problems. She chose nine thoughtful friends, gave them each $100, and told them they would be expected to account for what they had done with it at a gathering a month later.  To read about how Courtney's friends gave their $100.00 and the recipients click on THIS LINK for the full article.

Do you ever pay it forward?  And if so how?

[Disclaimer: A portion of story #2 came directly from the New York Times by Susan Dominus 2/8/10.]

ISP2061081 - A cocktail
Cheers to the Ogori cafe and to Courtney E. Martin!


  1. .Wonderful post, dear one. I would so love to eat at the cafe, and I'm also right there with you on being in the position to make larger donations to worthy charities or organizations of people.....I have gifted a lot for folks needing a boost - some known, some unknown, and I have about 5 organizations I donate to annually....now that I have a nonprofit account set up for my kidney transplant and the mustang nonprofit, the shoe is on the other foot, and it's humbling to me when strangers make a contribution -- when anyone does but when someone doesn't even know me other than reading about my case, it makes me cry....in a good way......blessings to you!

  2. Thank you so so much for you comment on my post :) makes me feel better already :)

  3. These are wonderful pay it forward stories. Thank you so much for sharing these w/me.
    I pay it forward, even if it's to share a smile.
    I paid the toll for the person behind me on the Florida Turnpike. Even little things mean alot, a smile on the street, a hello to a stranger.

  4. the only pay it forward we've done recently was buying a starbuck's cocoa for the salvation army bell ringer - need to do more of this :-) inspiring post once again!



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