Do you remember the 1987 movie, Wall Street, with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen? It was about a stockbroker who would do anything to get ahead. I had to watch it in business school. The professor was trying to instill in us the wrong way to run a business or live your life. There’s a line in that movie that always bothered me. It’s the line Gordon Gekko says: “The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” Wall Street made it seem as though greed was the heart of business in the ’80s.
Well, according to TrendWatching.com, an independent consumer trends firm, and their piece, “11 Crucial Consumer Trends For 2011,” there is a new generation emerging among us – Generation G, where “G” stands for generosity, not greed.
In the aftermath of the banking and housing market crash, I, too, am noticing a return to a time when families supported one another, people helped each other find work, and neighbors helped each other in times of need. Yes, random acts of kindness seem to be all the rage now.
Recently, I was driving on the freeway when my tire blew out. I pulled off the freeway and made it to a gas station and got out of my car. I was in the process of getting my car jack and spare tire out of the trunk when I was approached by a young man who asked, “Can I help you fix your tire, sir?” The young man looked to be in his early twenties. Honestly, I was a little surprised to say the least. He said he had an electric jack in his car that would make the job easier and then proceeded to change my tire. When he was done I tried to hand him $10.00, but he wouldn’t take it. He said, “No thank you. I just wanted to help.” It was a wonderful experience.
Now, many businesses are joining the Generation G movement.
In the Trendwatching.com article, they point to a number of companies trying to make a difference through social networks. Here are a few:
1. Interflora, a flower delivery service, is monitoring Twitter users for those who seem a little down. Then, they’re sending them a bouquet of flowers to brighten their day.
2. Dutch airline, KLM, has a program they call “How Happiness Spreads.” They give passengers surprise gifts that are tailored specifically to them. They have a team of employees called a “Surprise Team” that goes online to learn more about the passenger in order to select the gift.
3. Then there’s Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who have initiated a Giving Pledge campaign to encourage other billionaires to donate one-half of their wealth to philanthropic causes. It turns out that about half of those who have been asked have agreed to participate. This kind of giving is a reminder to all of us of lesser means to give what we can, whether that’s money or just time.
In that spirit, here are 22 ideas of ways we can all give back:
1. Volunteer at a local food shelter.
2. Smile more.
3. Tell the store manager the next time someone gives you excellent service.
4. Put money in the parking meter for someone who’s run out of time.
5. Pay for the drinks at the table next to you.
6. Pick up trash in your neighborhood when you see it.
7. Next time you’re grocery shopping, buy some dog or cat food and take it to the local animal shelter.
8. Volunteer at your child’s school.
9. Hold the door open for someone behind you.
10. Put an extra blanket in your car and give it to a homeless person.
11. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
12. Buy an inspirational book for someone you know who’s going through tough times.
13. Mow your neighbor’s lawn or shovel their snow.
14. Say “thank you” to a teacher for all they do.
15. Take your dog for a visit to a local retirement community.
16. Tell someone you work with that you enjoy working with them.
17. Call your family more often and remind them how much they mean to you.
18. Drop some homemade cookies off to an elderly couple.
19. Collect canned goods for the local food bank.
20. Give blood.
21. Give a note of thanks to your mail carrier.
22. Stop and talk with a homeless person for a minute or two.
For my part, I hope the trend toward generosity is not just a trend but in fact, a new direction we can all help perpetuate long into the future and pass on to our children and children’s children.