Lately I have been getting a lot of free clothing due to my following on social media and though I love the thought and appreciate the generosity I couldn’t help but feel guilty for accepting them. You see, I live in central Florida where chronically homeless people and veterans rank first in the nation. And 1 out of 5 of those homeless are children, over 13,700 kids total. My heart just can’t accept that and I knew I had to give back. One day while I was folding clothes it hit me, I had a large basket of T Shirts that were brand new and given to me. I had separated them into the basket because I had them on my list to take photos wearing them and post on my social media as a thank you, to show my support for the brand and to help grow their following but with heaviness in my heart I just didn’t feel right about doing that. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful by not posting an image online of their shirts but I couldn’t keep them when I am already fortunate enough to have plenty of clean clothes to choose from and that’s when the idea of #TheShirtOffMyBack was born.
I could give new clothing to the homeless in my community and in return take a photo of them and tell their stories to post. My hope was that it would go viral to inspire others to do the same and at the same time promote the brands in a positive way. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of gaining your following so you can reap the benefits of social popularity and at the same time brands use this to help promote their companies. There’s nothing wrong with it… it’s just the way today’s marketing works but what's discouraging about it that it's only surface deep. Those who have attained "Social Media Status" are the ones who benefit and companies don’t have to pay to grow their following. For a while I haven’t been a fan of “keeping the social faucet running” but wasn’t sure what to do about it until now. I want to use my following to change the way people use social media. I truly want to change the world. Big statement I know, but it’s not impossible. Today 1 post can reach millions in seconds. If more of us thought this same way then the world really would be altered for the better. It’s that easy.
Today is Giving Tuesday - a global day of giving back to our communities and support causes we care about most and I encourage you to do the same. Even if it’s just one gesture of kindness I can guarantee you that you will be looking for ways to do more after.
What I found out after my first day of walking the streets of Orlando donating was that these people not only needed things to live they also needed to be treated like people. They loved talking to me and sharing their stories. Unlike us they don’t have phones to post their status updates online to vent or share good or bad news, so having someone to talk to made a world of difference. A lot of them carried photos of their loved ones on them, some had books while others just needed a hug, handshake or a smile. I didn’t just hand them a shirt that day, I handed them their dignity as well and you can do that too. Please join me.
If you want to do something in your community a great way is Hashtag Lunchbag , a humanity service movement dedicated to empowering and inspiring humanity to reap the benefits of giving through the use of social media. They create and use bagged lunches, complete with love messages, as a vessel to spread this love and share our experiences to inspire others.