An alternative to Goodwill — how person to person donation can make you feel great!

The Goodwill Experience
What’s the first thing you do when you have a bunch of stuff you don’t need anymore? I know for me, I typically bag it up and drop it off at Goodwill without much more thought.

Dropping off at Goodwill is certainly easy and fast, but it’s pretty anonymous. What do they do with all that stuff in the warehouse at drop-off? Does it go into a pricing and retailing process? Do the employees snag what they want and sell the rest? For some reason, this time I bagged up my stuff was different. I stopped and asked myself, “How might I make better use of these things I don’t need anymore?”

Intentional Acts of Kindness
I was cleaning out my jewelry, small pieces I just didn’t wear anymore. Nothing wrong with them, but to me, they didn’t have much value. That’s when it hit me — who would this have value to? Synapses fired and I visualized a common sight around Austin… lots of “Nature people” camping, at intersections with signs, walking around, you know. By the way, I love the term “Nature people.” My 6-year-old was taught at school to use that term instead of the typical descriptor of “homeless.”

Would it be weird to hand out random pieces of jewelry to “Nature women?” This I pondered. It might be weird. “Hey there, would you like this necklace?” Hmm…. yeah. That might be uncomfortable, especially in the 30 seconds you get to interact with someone standing in the heat with a sign at an intersection.

I needed another approach, something different… then it hit me. People love gifts. Who probably never gets special gifts? Nature women, that’s who. My designer’s mind got to work and I decided to create small gifts I could hand out to Nature women. What I really wanted to do was share with them how I feel, that they are important, they are women with a story. How many Nature women feel like they’re important? I can imagine (not referencing a study but simply hypothesizing) that self esteem is in short supply among Nature women. Receiving a gift help could a Nature woman feel special, if just for a moment.



I picked out a nice note card, “just a little note” on the outside. On the inside, I wrote a special message for the Nature woman. It read:


I hand wrote that note on the inside of each of 20 note cards, then put one piece of jewelry in each one, folded it up, and placed it in the envelope. On the outside, I simply wrote “for you.” Now I just needed a recipient for my gift!



My morning drive
I gave out my first gift this morning. Driving up to the intersection of E. Riverside and I-35 in Austin, I stopped at the red light and saw her… brown, wrinkled, long hair, and rosaries hanging from her neck. Her sign said “just a smile is all I need.”



I rolled down my window and she walked over. I said “I have something for you. Something pretty, just for you.”

“For me?” She said, while she took the white envelope and curiously started peeling open the edges. She said, “well, I’m not pretty.” And I told her I thought she was pretty.

She said, hefting the envelope, “this is heavy!” and her eyes lit up just a bit as one layer of skepticism fell away. I said “yes it is!,” and she pulled out a black and tan beaded necklace, eyes huge. “Oh my god!!!” she exclaimed, mouth gaping open, looking like a kid who had just opened up the Christmas present they’d been wanting more than anything at all. “Oh my god!!! For me?” She looked at me quizzically. “Yes, for you,” I beamed back.

As the light changed from red to green, my heart lit up a little brighter as I watched her marveling at the necklace in my rearview mirror. I hope she can read the note inside the card, the one that says “I am a beautiful human being. I am perfect just the way I am.” It’s my intention for her, that she loves and accepts herself. If she reads that, hopefully it plants the seed in her mind that she is too.

That may have been a lot more work than bagging up the jewelry and dropping it off at Goodwill. But if I’d done that, I wouldn’t have received the gift of being able to light up a face. Her smile stayed with me all day.