On Building Character

It was a cold day in Minnesota today as we were digging out from 15″ of new snow. This morning, I did my typical, just-returned-from-Aspen tasks like picking up my mail at the post office, paying bills, and going to the grocery store for the basic staples like milk, eggs and bread.

I’ve been working so hard lately to make ends meat while I get my businesses up and running that I’ve barely had time to breathe, nevertheless reflect and think. I’m calling these trying economic times my “foundation-laying years.” I have a very clear vision as to where I’m headed, I’m just hoping I make it there in time.

Funny thing is, I think many people are feeling this way regardless if they’re in a long-term corporate job or a short-term entrepreneurial venture. Times are tough.

I started my start-over two years ago this month when I founded Sharing Profiles. Since that time, I’ve launched HireMeAspen.com, ResortPix.com and my newly launched consulting business, Share & Create. It’s a lot of work building communities, businesses and clientele, but so far, I’ve managed to keep all my bills current, sleep in a cozy bed night after night, and keep my belly way too well-fed.

It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve cut back on all the needless spending (ie. the Starbucks, the travel, the whimsical purchases). I don’t miss any of those things, but I do miss the feeling of security.

PanhandlerSo today, after buying my staples at Cub Foods, I was reminded how fortunate I am in spite of my tight budget and vulnerable state. I encountered a panhandler at the stop light.

Flashback. Six years ago. I was living in NYC. I was meeting a friend for dinner (you know, my friend Charles who’s been a subject of a previous post or two) and running late. I’d already briskly walked about 20 blocks when I encountered a blind woman and her son panhandling. I passed by and then thought about them the next 5 blocks (my dad is paralyzed, so it’s always been difficult for me to overlook a disabled person in need).

15 minutes late and 15 more blocks to go, I turned around. Walked back and gave them $20. $10 for generosity plus $10 penance for my initial, dismissive reaction. It was a good night from that point forward.

Flashback. Four years ago, I was in LA on business, driving to a Disney meeting with one of my Dow Jones colleagues. We came to a similar stoplight with a similar-looking panhandler. Cass called me crazy as I rolled down the window and handed the guy five bucks.

“You’re such a sucker. He’s just going to go buy drugs. That guy makes more money than we do!”

hmmmmm……

Two years ago, I was watching Dr. Wayne Dyer on a PBS Special. I can’t remember which special it was but I do remember the message that resonated with me. He was discussing an encounter with a panhandler, and how he chooses to give money in those instances. He indicated it didn’t matter to him whether or not that person is going to buy milk and eggs and bread…or drugs.

It actually boils down to this question for him (and for me).

Who do you choose to be in those types of encounters? Are you, by nature, a giving person or a stingy person? A trusting person or a fearful person? A smart person or a fool?

Today, I gave. But I only gave two bucks.

I’m curious. Now that times are tough and more people are in need today than yesterday…

Who do you choose to be?

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