When I started building our team at Public Goods, I didn’t only want to hire candidates who were skilled and experienced. I was looking for good people, those who would put others before themselves and make the world a better place.
Unfortunately I’m often too busy to keep track of whether my employees are embodying the qualities I envisioned. One of them was doing something wonderful for many months, but I didn’t notice until recently.
Because we are constantly testing and developing food products, there are a lot of edible goods in our headquarters. We try to avoid waste, but inevitably there are leftovers. Not everyone can take home 10 jars of olives or five bottles of honey.
Before I could think of what to do with this excess food, it was gone. To me it had vanished mysteriously.
Eventually I remembered to ask what was happening to it. My co-founder informed me that one of our product developers was volunteering to carry the boxes to a local homeless shelter. The walk wasn’t short, and sometimes the packaging was difficult to grip.
Rather than publicizing his charity to curry favor with his superiors or solicit compliments from co-workers, this employee was quiet about his donations. He even requested that we keep him anonymous when writing this blog post.
A few weeks later I accompanied him on his trip to the shelter, and I brought one box so I could provide my own contribution. As we approached the building, a homeless man walked parallel to us and peered over the cardboard flaps. He was curious to know what food might be placating his hunger.
The volunteer staff at the counter welcomed us warmly. As we gently set the boxes down in front of them, they thanked us and smiled.
There was something casual, almost perfunctory about how our product developer donated the goods. He didn’t linger to bask in gratitude. It was like he was dropping off a package at the post office.
On the way back to our headquarters I thought about how it had been so long since I saw true altruism. Perhaps the best way for us to benefit the public good is to incorporate generosity and charity into everything we do, including routines that would otherwise be inconsequential.
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