I am constantly trying to find new places to give my $10 away. I was walking over to my gym the other day, a walk that I have made far too infrequently these days, when I realized that I had never given my money away there. It’s a little weird to go up to someone bench pressing a bunch of iron and say, “Hey, could I give you $10?” but I was determined to find someone.
The easiest option would be to go give it to someone who was stuck working at the desolate reception – they’re practically begging for someone to come and talk to them there. Instead, I combed the gym looking for someone working out. I walked by and saw a lone person in the spinning room; a glass enclosed cage full of stationary bikes sentenced to life in gym. Inside, Natalie was working up a sweat on one of the two dozen bikes.
This was awkward. I didn’t want to affect her workout, but I did. She slowed down to a leisurely pace as we talked. Originally from Little Rock, AK, I quickly learned that we both had a connection to former President Clinton’s foundation. She had worked for the organization in Little Rock and I had worked for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a nonprofit that he helped start jointly with the American Heart Association. Now she works in government relations. “I’m a lobbyist,” she says as I probe a little deeper on what someone in government relations actually does. She’s been putting in long days working on energy related issues and only gets to the gym when apartment lights are being dimmed and people are pulling down their covers to go to bed for the evening. I asked her what her motivation was to go to the gym and she said, “Just basic maintenance, stress, and guilt.”
When this twenty-something is not immersed in wonky energy related policy or relieving stress on the stationary bike, Natalie enjoys reading and traveling. Her dream is to become a high school teacher some day and then retire in a sleepy town in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas.
As for the money, “I’ll have to give it away,” she says. “I’ll probably give it to someone who is homeless.” We talked about how society today has changed and people don’t stop to talk to strangers that much. “I don’t talk to people on the street,” she admits, “I’m a headphone person.” I encouraged her to take a second and talk to the person she gives the money to – ask them their name.
Before I left, I asked if she needed anything that I could add to the Lend a Hand initiative. “Maybe some advice,” she started to say, “about how to make my parents golden years meaningful.” Her dad, a bar owner, and mother, a special education teacher, live together in Little Rock. I liked that she thought of them and their happiness. Our parents do so much for us. I could also use some similar advice for my father. I have some ideas, but getting him to want to do those things is a whole another story.