Wednesday, May 14, 2008

29-Day Giving Challenge Takeaway: Compassion is Hardest to Give

On Saturday I completed the 29-Day Giving Challenge that I posted about last month. The process felt like peeling an onion. First I gave away money, then stuff, then advice, and then my giving became more intangible.

I came to realize that, at least for me, the most difficult thing to give away sometimes is compassion for individuals I encounter in every day life. It isn't difficult for me to care and want to help a cause, or an individual entrepreneur on Kiva, or a reader who emails me for advice. What is challenging for me is to be understanding with the friend who is always down and complaining, the client who stalls my work by not replying to emails, or the customer service representative who reads from a script of answers in response to my complaint. I lose my patience, and sometimes I get angry.

Thing is, you can sign petitions, make donations, organize rallies, and spread the word about do-good things all you want, but if you're not being kind to the people around you, are you really a changemaker? . . .

In his 1989 Nobel lecture, the Dalai Lama said,

"Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each of us individually. Peace, for example, starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us."

On Day 26 of the Challenge I came across the Get Service video (above) about empathy. It is totally amateur and cheezy, but it made my blubber. I don't want to spoil it for you by describing it, but let's just say that when someone is getting on my nerves, and I remember to think of it, it helps me.

While out to lunch on my Day 29, I got one of those tea bags with a saying on the tag. It said,

"The finest pleasure is kindness to others--Jean de la Bruyère."

For more information about joining the 29-Day Giving Challenge, go to, and check out what other bloggers are saying about it:

Monday was Day 29 for BlogHer Editor Green LA Girl, and today is Day 29 for the Chief Family Officer. I'm sure they'll post their reflections in the week ahead.

A Day Late and a Dollar Short and Dream Big! are about halfway done with the Challenge. Says Me, One Frugal Girl, Sarah Salway and Tragic Sandwich just started. PozVibes and Unclutterer are thinking about starting.


  1. Anonymous2:34 AM

    Well done Britt!

    I think this could be a good challenge for June (I am trying to do something different every month this year). I agree it is the hardest to find compassion with those who try our patience, the way I cope with that is I try to think that they have their own issues that cause them to behave that way rather than them being deliberately obstructive. Although sometimes I do wonder...

  2. Anonymous1:32 PM

    Dear Britt - Thanks so much for this post (and I love this video). Though I carry my smile cards around ( for spontaneous giving, I have not organized myself into the 28-day challenge yet. Judging from your post, it offers a whole 'nother level of experience and connection to giving and to others, so you can count me in with the folks that plan to start now. Thanks for inspiring us.

  3. Wow, you really got to the heart of the challenge. I am so impressed by the depth of your giving. And I agree completely that compassion is one of the hardest gifts to give. But this is one area where I really believe that trying is at least as important as succeeding.

  4. Anonymous5:36 AM

    Hi Britt,

    Just discovered your post via Peter Deitz' blog on Social Actions... Really wonderful to know what you're doing here, to read this entry, and watch the video... I've been working on this, too, extending the "giving" that I want to be about to the people I come in contact with every day. A couple of weeks ago I had an idea that seemed to help. I looked at each person I saw as "creating going on" -- as works in progress, as people in the process of creating their life in the best way they knew how. Amazing how much compassion that inspired (for myself, too, as I turned that lens on me). It was similar to what's shown in the video except that the descriptions for each person were really dynamic, vibrant verbs instead of nouns.

    Thanks so much for the inspiration.


  5. Anonymous5:37 PM

    I'm so glad to have found your blog, Britt, and it is a pleasure to "meet" you. I think we have a lot in common. I recently started a blog called "The Philanthropic Family" ( and joined the 29-Day Giving Challenge myself. Posted about it and am trying to go through my own journey. I love your thoughts about the gift of understanding and seek to infuse everyday life with the spirit of giving.

  6. katesaltfleet - Have you decided to take the Challenge in June?

    Chris - How exactly do the smile cards work? I was looking at the site but it wasn't totally clear. You carry them around and then if someone does something nice for you, you hand them one and encourage them to do the same when someone does something nice for them?

    Chief Family Office - You have been a rockstar spreading the word about the 29-Day Giving Challenge. I see your blog referenced in relationship to it all over the place.

    Christine - That is an interesting lense to use when someone is getting on your nerves, that each peson is a work in progress. Thanks for the idea.

    thephilanthropicfamily - Good luck with the Challenge!


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