I stumbled across this article today. “Secret Santas” in Charlotte, NC are giving away $10,000 (of their own money) in $100 bills. They’ve been doing it for the past few years around the holidays. Be sure to look at the full slideshow of pictures. The comments people have made are interesting, too.

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I looked at a lot of people today, wondering about that $100. Would I give it to the sweet kid who pumped my gas? He was really busy and I was just another gray-haired lady but he indulged me with a genuine moment of connection. What about the young woman eating her (rosemary peanut brittle) ice cream in front of Ruby Jewel? What about the harried man in business attire rushing down the street, seemingly to a job? Or maybe a job interview? Or to pick up the last unemployment check?

I really appreciate all the comments on my first post. I actually expected a lot more controversy and even some negative reactions.  At least a few people must think it is a dumb idea to give away money in such a “non-strategic” way. Some call it “hit and run charity”, or even “dangerous compassion”. I’ve got a foot in that camp myself, being the planner/strategizer that I am by nature. Part of me hopes that the 31 $100 recipients will somehow find each other and together start a non-profit micro-lending enterprise. Now THAT would make a difference!

More about all of this in the days to come. I will be sharing links and resources so if you have read something thought-provoking about money and/or giving, please let me know! (thanks to those of you who have done so already)

Can $100 change a life? For the recipient? The giver?  That is some of what I am setting out to discover. Every day for the month of October, I’m going to give $100 to a stranger I encounter during the course of my routine.

I was recently pleasantly surprised to find that my mother had named me the beneficiary of a small retirement fund. More than usual, I’ve been thinking about money and the role it plays in my life. Although she was raised in an upper class German home, as a Holocaust survivor my mother lived forever with a deeply held conviction that life was defined by scarcity and want. She taught me to be frugal, and modest in my material desires.

I consider myself a generous person and make it a priority to give to causes I care about. Yet I always have questions: how much of an impact does my giving make? Won’t the need always be overwhelming? Should I spread out my gifts, or give more to fewer groups? Should I give anonymously?  Or only to strangers? I worry one day that I am not giving enough away, and the next that I might not have enough for myself and my family.

This project is about making a difference, starting with 31 people, and about exploring my money and giving issues. It is a way to honor my mother’s gift to me as well as the lessons I learned from her. I hope to spark some discussion and maybe even some generosity. Every day I’ll tell the story of the day’s $100 giveaway.

Starting now, I welcome your thoughts and comments.