I finally caught up on my TiVo recordings over the weekend. I watch exactly two television shows now, Lost and CSI. With Lost now going on an extended break, and CSI still gearing up for new episodes, I decided to record some new shows and give them a try. Oprah’s Big Give seemed to be a show I would like based on its premise of giving away money for good causes. It looked to me to be sort of a reality show for Secret Santas.
The first two episodes were about what I expected, but as the stakes were raised and the dollar amounts increased, I became more disappointed with each new show. In the March 23 airing contestants were asked to give away $100,000 in twenty-four hours. The stipulations were you could not give away more than $500 to any one person, or $10,000 at any one location, and you could not simply give away cash.
I was surprised when none of the contestants visited local churches, hospitals or social services offices. These seemed like obvious places to look for people who are hurting, emotionally, physically and/or financially. Most churches have a long list for their benevolence funds, and not all of them are requests for cash money. Many families need help making a car payment, or getting their mortgage caught up just to get back on track. Others may be recovering from a serious illness and are buried in medical bills, or have experienced a disaster such as a house fire or flood and have lost all of their belongings.
Many municipalities are closing city pools and recreational facilities because of a lack of funding and dilapidated equipment. I can just imagine a local Boys or Girls Clubs in Miami would have loved to have received a new basketball goal, or other updated recreational equipment for their facilities. Orphanages are frequently in need of linens and meal supplies to care for young people in their charge. Soup kitchens and shelters struggle to keep staples such as flour, bread, meats and rice in stock. There is no shortage of stories of victims of Hurricane Andrew still living in homes in need of repair, fifteen years after the hurricane blew through Miami. $10,000 would have gone a long way at each of these places.
Instead, some contestants bought groceries for random shoppers, gave away flowers at an intersection ($2,000 worth), and donated pet food and supplies to an animal shelter. These were all noble deeds, but I thought the name of this game was Big Give! These contestants were guilty of thinking small.
I was once part of a corporate initiative to implement a process improvement plan throughout the company. Our trainer had us perform an exercise in the very beginning of the 6-week training course called “think BIG.” Basically, each team was given an idea and told to expound on it as many times as we could in ten minutes. My group received the task, “Start a youth sports program – your existing budget is $0.00.” We started frantically throwing out ideas and capturing them on a worksheet. Separating each line on the worksheet were the words, “think BIGGER!”
After completing ten or eleven lines we had a strategy to start a youth football league sponsored by area businesses and local sports teams. A new stadium would be built using a combination of public and private, corporate-sponsored funds. Concession sales and banner advertisements lining the playing fields would pay for ongoing maintenance. Not bad for ten minutes of brainstorming. However, if the words “think BIGGER” had not appeared under each idea we might have stopped with “sell Krispy Kreme donuts to raise some money.”
Most people stop thinking big somewhere along the way. We all settle into our lives and outgrow those big dreams we had as a kid. I’d encourage anyone reading this to “think BIGGER” when imagining what we could do collectively to help other people. It’s easy to sit in my living room and play armchair quarterback, but I would like to think if I had a chance to give away $100,000 to people in need I could find more worthy recipients.
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