Monday, December 08, 2014

Having fun and doing good

"When you wake up every day, you have two choices. You can either be positive or negative; an optimist or a pessimist. I choose to be an optimist. It's all a matter of perspective." - Harvey Mackay
"Harvey Mackay is clearly not a social media participant." - Clark Brooks

The fact of the matter is that sometimes it's extremely difficult to be upbeat, a lot harder than simply waking up and making a choice. There are times when it seems like we're surrounded on all sides and at all times by surly, miserable people and just horrible things. And that requires extra effort to seek out and find a reason to feel good about the world.
It sure seems that way lately. There's trouble all over the place and everybody is upset and hard to deal with. It's been depressing to the extent that I've found it difficult to maintain a sunny disposition, even at work, which is a serious problem since having a sunny disposition is a fairly significant chunk of my job description.

Speaking of where I work, our owner Jeff Vinik has initiated some high profile charitable efforts, most notably, the Lightning Community Heroes program. On a much lower profile, is a "Pay It Forward" program that exists for employees:
"In the spirit of helping others during the holiday season, we give each employee $75 and ask that that person donates the money to a holiday charity or needy family close to his/her heart."
That's it, nothing else to it. No guidelines. No minimum requirements. No required follow-up. Just take this $75 in cash and do something good with it.
Perfect. Right up my alley. Just what I need to straighten out my attitude. The problem is since I'm not a very good person to begin with and an even worse shopper, my first instinct was to go to Publix and spend it all on frozen pizza and beer and then just stand outside and hand it out to passers by. I knew I could do better with some guidance, so I enlisted the help of someone who could compensate for my shortcomings and who I know has also expressed similar frustration: the one and only Lynne Austin.
We met up at a nearby Family Dollar store last night and hijacked the manager, a relentlessly patient man named Milton, who helped us tear up and down the aisles in search of the really good bargains. $75 doesn't sound like a lot of money but we managed to fill up two and a half carts (actually, we may have exceeded that budget a bit which someone may have covered out of their own pocket).
Milton: "When it comes to canned goods, stick to the Family Dollar brand. They're only .65 instead of a dollar."
Lynne: "Get things that can be used to make soup."
Me: "Anything can be used to make soup, if you want soup bad enough."
Lynne: "What about this? Potted meat."
Clark: "No! Stay away from that. That stuff is really bad for you!"
Lynne: "Oh, it is?"
Clark: "How do I know that and you don't?" 
We got a ton of food and quite a few toys and it really was a lot of fun. At one point, this happened:
Lynne: "(laughing) Stop it. You're going to make me pee."
Clark: "I know! I'm really funny, huh?"
Lynne: "Don't flatter yourself. I've had four kids. It doesn't take much."
Anyway, when all was said and done, we had $75 (actually $100) worth of Christmas presents in the form of food, toys and other gifts heading toward The Volunteer Way, a food bank in New Port Richey, and I find myself in a much better frame of mind to deal with some of you f*ckers on Facebook.
Both of those are good.

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