The purity of the anonymous gift

When I was in seventh grade I received a small package in the mail that contained a locket with my name on it. There was not a card or note attached, and the package had a return address of Bazooka Bubble Gum. At that time, you could collect the comics inside the bubble gum and send away for a prize or gift. 

Although I asked everyone I knew, no one ever claimed responsibility. I never knew who sent this to me. A secret admirer?  I loved to think about who it might be. To this day many, many years later I still have the locket in my jewelry box. I never wear it, but it is a reminder to me about the power of anonymous giving.

What a selfless act — the anonymous gift. We have donors here at the Foundation who prefer to stay anonymous and truly anonymous — no mention of their names anywhere, not in our annual report, not in the letter to the grantee, not on walls or plaques.  What a powerful way to embrace philanthropy! 

And even if someone’s name is known, many of the gifts made through our work are truly anonymous.  Examples abound: Those scholarship recipients who never get to meet the generous donor who is making a difference in their daily lives. Those gifts to organizations that are able to help more families, but whose clients never know who is helping to make it possible. The members of our giving circles who work together to make one gift to a charitable cause.

The concept of “random acts of kindness” is one of those anonymous gestures.  We have heard about the donors who play “Santa Claus” over the holidays, giving out $100 bills at local shopping centers or paying off someone’s layaway.  And then there are smaller gifts, like the person in line who pays for your coffee. Someone you have never even met reaches out with generosity or stops to help a stranger. 

I would like to be more like this kind of person. I aspire to be someone who does kind things for others without an expectation of appreciation or recognition.  What if we all tried to do something each week in this way? If you decide to give it a try let me know.  I promise to keep your name out of it!