THE BLOG
01/28/2015 03:29 pm ET Updated Mar 30, 2015

Giving Money to Strangers Changed My Perspective

Kevin Russ via Getty Images

My husband showed me a Thai commercial for an insurance company called "Unsung Hero." In it, a man goes about his day helping others. He moves a dried-out plant beneath a gutter that's leaking. He helps an old lady lift her cart over a curb. He gives money to a mother and daughter who are begging on the street. Various onlookers shake their heads at his folly. By the end of the commercial, the plant is green and thriving, the daughter is in a school uniform and the old lady is laughing with the man. He's helped each one of these people and he's made a difference with his small gestures.

Though it's been a few weeks since I've seen the commercial, I haven't been able to shake it off. Perhaps that's because my husband sent it to me right around the New Year and I had resolutions on my mind? Perhaps it's because I'm hormonal or an overly sensitive-type person? For whatever reason, the commercial confirmed something I'd suspected all along.

It's better to help than not to help.

I know we all have reasons for not helping. Too busy. Don't want to cause a ruckus. Don't like strangers. Don't know what someone is actually going to do with the money. I've had all of those thoughts go through my head when confronted with someone asking for money. Every time I say no or pass them by, it nags at me.

I'm not gonna lie.

It just doesn't sit well with me.

Ever since I've watched this video, I've decided to say yes to everyone. If you've got a cup, I'm putting money in it. If you want canned food for the homeless, I'm going to buy a can. Although I've only had two opportunities to give people money, it feels good that I've said yes two times rather than no.

The two men I helped were both standing on the side of the road, on different days. The first man was easy to help. He was standing outside on a frigid day and I waved him over to my car. When I gave him the money he said, "Bless you."

The second gentleman was a little more out of my way, but I decided that annoying the cars behind me was more important than passing up an opportunity to help. That, in and of itself, is outside of my comfort zone.

"You're a lifesaver," he said and our eyes locked. I was caught in a moment of raw humanity. I was not staring into the eyes of a junkie. I was not staring into the eyes of a con man. I was looking into the eyes of a fellow human being who was suffering and who was grateful for my help.

It almost crushed me.

To think of all the people I'd said no to because I was afraid they might be drug users, alcoholics, con men, lazy or whatever other negative connotations I could come up with to excuse my inhumanity. But the fact remains--not giving people money always makes me feel bad.

But giving never makes me feel bad.

I feel more connected.

I feel more human.

And it just feels right.

Maybe giving to others is actually a selfish act? Because by helping others, I end up feeling better about myself.