Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice.
Better than knowledge is meditation.
But better still is surrender of attachment to results,
because there follows immediate peace.
— Bhagavad Gita (thanks to Greg for this reminder!)
Last night, I watched the new reality show on Fox TV called, “The Secret Millionaire.” I have to admit that I am old enough to remember the old 1950s CBS show, “The Millionaire,” which followed a similar line: an uber-rich person disguises themselves and then drops a pile of money on someone they have observed and deemed worthy.
In this new incarnation, each week, a different multi-millionaire goes undercover into the most impoverished and dangerous towns in America. Their job is to spend one week living on about $100, while meeting as many people as possible to identify those who could most benefit from their charity. On the final day, the “secret millionaire” meets with their chosen recipients, reveals his/her true identity, and hands them a check that is going to change their lives forever.
So in last night’s first episode, an obscenely wealthy attorney (specializing in home foreclosures, of all things!) and his privileged teenage son move into a $57 a night dump in impoverished Imperial Beach, CA. Their small stipend quickly disappears, forcing them to go find unskilled hard labor to keep from ending up on the street.
Welcome to the real world, folks.
Not surprisingly, this is an eye-opener for them, and they appear to undergo a transformation in their attitudes about their relationship to those less fortunate.
The second episode’s millionaires were sent to a small town in Louisiana that is still in ruins (speaking here just yesterday of Hurricane Katrina). However, they did not seem to have been so deeply changed by their experience. (Perhaps because somehow, they did not have to work or get their hands dirty. Instead they were shown driving around in a huge SUV (that stayed mysteriously gassed up), interviewing the locals and squirming in discomfort over the shabby trailer they were given).
In both stories, at the end, the millionaires don their $2,000 suits and Vacheron Constantin watches and reveal their true identities to the unfortunates they’ve been hanging out with (and who have also been generously sharing what little they have with the imposters).
They sooth their duplicity by offering huge checks which will change forever the lives of those they have been observing. Then we, and the millionaires, get to watch the recipients fall to pieces in gratitude.
To me, these final scenes were contrived and creepy. And they emphasized to me how much more powerful and beautiful anonymous acts of kindness can be. While the final scene is meant to be dramatic and tearful, I think it also takes a real swipe at the recipients’ dignity, while returning the rich folk safely back to their comfortable thrones.
Tomorrow, I’ll have more to say about this, and about the power of anonymous kindness. But for today, might I suggest another way to spread some Grace and light?
How about leaving a book you’ve enjoyed in a place that someone might find it and read it? You could pick a place where it might be especially appreciated – like a waiting room, the DMV, or at a restaurant. You might want to avoid leaving it at an actual bookstore or library (so as to avoid confusion), or at an airport or other place that is skittish about finding unattended items.
If this sounds familiar, it might be due to the wildly popular Bookcrossings, which is the “read and release” practice started by Ron and Kaori Hornbaker in 2001. Their purpose is primarily to track the criss-crossing journeys of pass along books.
Your main intention, of course, is to treat someone to a little kindness.