I received a text from the librarian at the school where our children, Logan and Haley, attended from pre-school until this year.
She texted that she knew I had a way of caring for people whenever I noticed they needed a pick-me-up. She wanted to let me know that it was always appreciated and that she has noticed that is my gift.
The message took me by surprise, because I never share, publicly, when I’ve surprised someone with a small gift or note to cheer them on or cheer them up. I wondered what could have prompted her message. When I mentioned it to my husband, Jeremy, he said, “What did you give her this time?” He knows me so well.
The only thing I could think of was that I had always given her a gift card at the beginning and end of each school year and at Christmas to use for the library. This would have been the first time in nine years she had not received a gift from me. Or it could have been that the school had just delivered the present I left her in July as my way to say thanks for tutoring Haley through the summer.
It reminded me how often little things can have a great impact. A short note, silly gift, buying someone’s lunch, even if you’re not sharing the meal together—anything that makes the connection stronger and the relationship deeper has a ripple effect of encouraging an act of kindness or philanthropy.
Like the little duck Haley spotted on our family’s Jeep recently, we know a tiny gesture can inspire great joy which can lead to exponential expressions of kindness. For example, what began on July 4, 2020 with one Jeep owner leaving a plastic duck and note on a nearby Jeep, just to brighten a stranger’s day during a terrible time for everyone, has become a global phenomenon known as Duck, Duck Jeep.
It also reminded me of a very special Kinetic Emeriti consultant, Norma Murphy, who would get to know foundation program officers personally, as individuals, not human ATMs.
She would learn little things about people, and send small gifts tailored to their interests. Each gift came with a personal note: “Saw this, and thought of you.” Whether it was cookies shipped from a special bakery or toe socks to a program officer who had a collection, Norma always found a way to make a small gesture memorable and meaningful.
As Kinetic Chairman and CEO Matt Beem shared in a tribute to her “Norma didn’t just understand the power of philanthropy. She lived it.” Whether it’s through big gifts or small gestures, the power of philanthropy is more than just positive, it is a multiplying force for good.