Pouring Kindness from a Bowl of Cash

Pouring Kindness From a Bowl of Cash

An office manager gives her colleagues the resources to do good

Like half the country, Hillary Hayden wasn’t pleased with the election results last November. But unlike many, she resolved to do something that would keep inauguration day from being an occasion of sorrow — and she hit on an inspiring good turn that she hoped would help brighten it, not just for herself, but for all her colleagues at fuseproject, the San Francisco design firm where she worked as office manager at the time.

“A lot of people at the office were upset about the inauguration,” she says. “I didn’t want to go to this negative place. I wanted to do something good myself. I thought, what if I give people the tools to do something good. Let’s see what they can do.”

So Hayden withdrew $250 from her bank account, changed it for fifty $5 bills, and left the cash in a bowl in the kitchen area of the firm’s offices. “It was hilarious, because people didn’t know what to make of this pot of cash as they were walking into the office,” she says. Of course, she followed the cash up with an email to her confused colleagues: “If ever there was a time to do something good for the planet, that time is NOW. I just put $250 on the kitchen table. Here’s the challenge! Grab $5, $10, $15 and give to a person or cause in need TODAY, and tell us what you did to spread love and hope.”

Hayden reports that people were afraid to take the money at first. “I had to encourage them a little bit and let them know it’s for real, and they should do something with it,” she recalls. Soon enough, they did, and the emails relating their good turns started rolling in.

“People get stuck in their negativity and you just get more of that. I really wanted to bring a different light to the situation.”

People donated to Planned Parenthood, bought food for homeless families they’d normally just pass by on their way home, subscribed to public radio and to journalism outlets they felt were deserving of support, gave to think tanks like the International Peace Institute and non-profits like the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project and Electronic Frontier Foundation, and bought coffee for people at the Women’s March the next day.

“It was really great to see all the different ways the money was spent.” Hayden says. “I felt that if people kept sharing their stories, it would inspire others to go out and be creative and do something in kind, and keep the momentum going, keep the positive feeling going.”

“It really was about positive action,” she says. “People get stuck in their negativity and you just get more of that. I really wanted to bring a different light to the situation.” Sure enough, gestures like Haydens are ones that illuminate the best in all of us.

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