How to Be Charitable, Lazily
This weekend I was out running errands when I realized I had survived for hours without any coffee (no wonder I was cranky about the traffic). Obviously a local coffee shop with a mustache decal on the front window would be ideal, but I wasn’t in the hipster neighborhoods so I had to accept what literally was right in front of me: Starbucks. I got in line, looked up from my phone, and saw a sign, placed conspicuously between their menus: Share the spirit! Buy one holiday drink, get one free to share.
“Aw man, too bad I don’t have anyone with me,” I thought. It seemed like such a waste to pass up free coffee. It pained me. But then I realized how stupid that was. I was in the middle of a huge line. So I did the unthinkable and actually turned around to make eye contact with, and speak to, the person behind me.
The person turned out to be a thirty-something man with his young daughter. “Are you getting one of the holiday drinks?” I asked them. “I think my daughter was just going to get a water,” the man responded, “but I think my wife would probably like one.” “Perfect!”
Three awkward minutes later he asked which of the holiday drinks I’d tried, and what I thought of them. In the end he just decided to get what I was getting. (No, not pumpkin, and not peppermint. How basic do you think I am?) It took forever to get our drinks, because it isn’t truly Starbucks if it doesn’t take for literally ever, but eventually I gave the man his coffee, said I hoped his wife liked it, and left.
That was it. That was all it took. I didn’t have to go online to find a charity I liked and go through the process of entering my credit card information. I didn’t have to listen to someone nervously give a spiel they’d been trained to memorize. I didn’t have to listen to someone waxing eloquent about their passion making me feel like the slime of the earth for giving less than half my life’s savings. I didn’t have to have a conversation longer than five short sentences per person. I didn’t have to go anywhere I wasn’t going to anyway. But it had the same effect.
That particular promotion has since ended, so it’s a little harder to do this thing since you’ll actually have to spend money on it. But on the other hand, it won’t require any conversation at all – you just have to say to the cashier, “add $5 to my total and subtract $5 from the person’s behind me,” or words to that effect. If you’re in a drive-thru it’s even easier because you won’t have to deal with that person’s thank yous. (Because let’s be real, you kind of just want to do it and get out of there so it’s all over. You have coffee to drink and fries to eat.)
It’s one of those things people say we should do, and we nod, and then never do it. We have this idea that it’s going to be awkward and kind of weird and we’re not even exactly sure how to go about doing it. But now that I’ve given you a script, it should be easy.
We’re constantly looking for new ways to make our own lives easier, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t occur to us that we could be using those same things, or the time they save us, to help make someone else’s life easier too. And really, if you can do it while still being lazy, what excuse is left?
Originally published on fee.org.