The Contagion of Giving & Our March 2015 Giveaway

Hello again to everyone and welcome to our little patch of bandwidth on the interwebs!  We're preparing for the March 22nd giveaway so if you have a donation you'd like us to pick up, just let us know. Our Amazon wish list has been adjusted to welcome the Spring weather and now includes some items that are more pertinent to warmer temps. Here's our Traffic Light shopping guide for this month's giveaway:

Red Light. We have plenty of these items and don't need more right now: conditioner, lotion, lip balm, soap bars & body wash

Yellow Light. We probably have enough of these items to make it through this giveaway: shampoo, dental items (travel toothbrushes, travel toothpaste, floss), feminine hygiene products, razors, nail clippers, new socks

Green Light. We really need these items: individual tissue packs, personal first aid kits, wipes/hand sanitizer, underwear (men's & women's), individual toilet paper rolls, insect repellent

Beginning this month, our website announcements will update once a month, with a focus on articles and anecdotes pertinent to homelessness, secular humanism and kindness, just to name a few topics. We hope you enjoy this change to our webpage communications. If you can't get enough, you can follow our more frequent postings on FaceBook and Twitter. In the meantime, grab a cup of tea and enjoy the reading.

The Contagion of Giving
by Virginia Miller

Here’s a little arrangement of words that will give you today’s dose of warm and fuzzy.  Did you know giving can be contagious?  So contagious that if left to spread it could hopefully feed the world? Well, let’s give it a try!

Remember the movie Pay it Forward?  The main character, Trevor, was given an assignment by his teacher:  think of something to change the world and put it into action.  Trevor concocts a plan to not only pay back people but to pay it forward, which ignites a wildfire of selflessness felt the world over.  Things like this aren’t uncommon, as I personally have experienced them each giveaway I attend for ATXAHH.  For example, we get up early on a Sunday morning, which for our group would be a great opportunity to sleep in, and give away a months’ worth of hard work.  We offer items that take time and effort to obtain and make, with no intention of receiving anything in return.  Another example, I have been one of those lucky people who has been in a “Pay it Forward” line at a Starbucks drive-thru.  On occasion at a grocery store, I have witnessed others spot a person ahead of them who was short a small amount of money from their bill.  Another personal experience comes to mind.  In the check-out line of Ikea, an older gentleman in front of me didn’t have proper form of payment, as checks weren’t accepted there.  I took his check and paid his bill with a credit card.  After I left the store the man thanked me and told me he came all the way from south of Buda to get his wife bathmats as they are her favorite.  I often wonder from these small encounters if the people who’ve received these random acts of kindness in turn pay it forward also.

How wonderful would it be if this selfless contagion overshadowed all selfishness we consistently experience each day?  Could it be that simple?

In a study, where selflessness was a more logical choice, acts of giving “tripled over the course of the experiment by other subjects who are directly or indirectly influenced to contribute more.”  In this “public-goods-game” people were arranged in groups of four and given 20 credits, which they could choose, anonymously, to keep or give away in whatever amounts they deemed appropriate. The group fund would then be equally re-distributed amongst the subjects.  The subject would make more in the end if one would give all their money away, though it made more sense to keep it all and depend on the generosity of the other subjects.  In subsequent rounds, individuals were more generous when realizing other players gave previously.  Punishment rounds were added to balance out the giving.  This would punish those who were selfish but people did not choose this way and so the giving continued. 

Can we look to this being the natural order of human behavior?  According to the study this was more of a “monkey see monkey do” situation.  Same could be said for selfishness, though with hope in my heart, I’d like to give forth to humanity than to hoard it all for myself.  Anyone else up for the challenge?  See how many people you can infect with random acts of giving.

Citation: “Cooperative behavior cascades in human social networks.” By James H. Fowler and Nicholas A. Christakis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 107 No. 10, March 9, 2010.


Another successful giveaway on the books!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this month's giveaway. You donated more than 1300 items, ranging from toiletries to reading materials to seasonal clothing and lots of things in between. It's heartwarming and amazing to know so many people want to make a difference. Today, 114 people benefited from your generosity.

If you wanted to donate to this month's giveaway but didn't get the chance, don't worry...we're doing in again on March 22nd!  Now that Spring is on its way, we'll make a few adjustments to the items we distribute. If you're ever in doubt, check our Amazon wishlist. Even if you don't make an online purchase, it serves as a good shopping list when you're at local stores. 

Items we don't need at the moment: soap bars, shampoo, conditioner, feminine hygiene items, lip balm and lotion

Items we really need for the next giveaway: travel size deodorants, small first aid kits, socks, toilet paper, wipes/hand sanitizer, travel tissue packs and anything else on the Amazon wishlist

For those people who like to donate their crafty skills, ATXAHH recently started a FaceBook group called Beyond the Basics: A Creative Cohort. Throughout the year, group members will brainstorm ideas then make special, themed "goodies" or "extras" to share at our giveaways in addition to the basic items we distribute...hence the group name: Beyond the Basics.  You don't have to live in Austin, Texas, to join. Supporters of secular humanism who live outside of Austin are also welcome to participate and create items. Upon request, a mailing address will be provided so you can send your creations to be distributed at the appropriate giveaway. This is a great opportunity for crafters, creatives or people with children who want to make a small, yet thoughtful, difference in the day of someone who is experiencing homelessness.

Speaking of craft skills, here's an activity that isn't directly related to ATXAHH but we want to spread the word:  Artists are planning to create a memorial wall at Community First! Village, Austin's first effort to house people who have endured chronic homelessness. They're looking for donated supplies and volunteers to make it a success. If you'd like to learn more or contact them, check out this article

In the meantime, please follow us on FaceBook and Twitter. While this website showcases monthly announcements, the social media feeds provide more information and updates between giveaways.