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Are We There Yet? vol. 100

This week marks the 100th edition for what started out as a three-week project because our Covid lockdown would only last 3 weeks. This is an example of why I don’t make predictions. My colleague, Zuhra, asked me if I would do anything special like when Oprah gave every audience member a car on September 13th, 2004. Well, your dreams of a new car will have to wait but I do have another story to tell.

Around the time when Oprah was giving away cars, Claybourne Elder was a 23-year-old from Utah visiting New York. He went to a Broadway play and as Sydney Page of The Washington Post tells it “as he stood in the very back of the theatre, he was visibly enthralled by the show. A stranger approached him after the performance and spontaneously handed him $200. ‘You look like you were enjoying that show more than people who are sitting in the expensive seats’ the stranger said.” He went on to tell Claybourne to buy good seats to Sweeney Todd. The two took a photo together and Claybourne was off to Sweeney Todd, a ticket for which he couldn’t have otherwise afforded. This feel good story of kindness could have ended there.  

Claybourne is now a 39-year-old Broadway actor and plays John Adams in the HBO Max series, The Gilded Age. He moved to New York in 2008 to pursue his acting career and credits the stranger’s kindness as one of the factors that made him decide to move.  He has always tried to pay that stranger’s kindness forward and in a December 30th Instagram post, “the actor pledged to give away two free tickets to a “Company” show on Jan. 1.” He had a few conditions including that those who enter the contest should be “someone who could maybe not afford to come to a show otherwise.” He also shared the story of the stranger’s kindness to him as the inspiration and included the picture that he and the stranger took. Not only did people enter the contest, but people donated funds for additional free tickets and so far, more than $10,000 has been contributed and more than 250 theatre tickets have been donated. The icing on the cake for Claybourne was that a fellow actor called him to say that he is friends with that stranger, named Mark Howell, the owner of an advertising agency in LA. “Howell was deeply moved by how his unplanned $200 gift triggered a chain of kindness that keeps growing.”

I can think of times when my gut told me it would be a nice thing to give to a stranger who appears to be in need, but my brain told me to think it through rationally. I then came up with all the reasons why my giving might not go to a good use.  Absent the contest, Mark Howell would have never known how his gift was used.  The lesson for me is that we only control the giving and not what happens after we give.  So, I’m going to try to trust my gut more, give more, and not dwell on what may have happened as a result of that gift.  That will likely be better for the recipients and certainly better for my piece of mind.

This week’s selection is:

PODCAST:

Smartless

The trio of Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, & Will Arnett provide a sneak peek into the lives of celebrities who seem larger than life. One of the surprises is that in each episode one of the hosts reveals his mystery guest to the other two. What ensues is a genuinely improvised and authentic conversation filled with laughter and newfound knowledge to feed the SmartLess mind.