Having fun with money and strangers

So here we are. Just three weeks into 2011 and already the world’s papers are full of Hungary’s EU presidency, growing concern about the new media law, and the supposed ‘Putinisation’ of the country. In Ireland, the mood is little better. Post-IMF depression has set in, the first public sector pay cheques of the year have shrunk noticeably, and many are getting their first taste of job insecurity. Once again, I’m truly glad that I live in my own little world, where the sky is a lovely shade of orange and those who share my space understand the madness.

And I’m glad, too, that I resolved to make no New Year’s resolutions this year. I have spared myself the pain of the annual self-flagellation that usually takes place around this time. I have opted out of the self-berating litany of wudda, cudda, shudda in which I’m normally mired mid-January. I have renounced the long, dark hours of introspection, where, like a baboon digging nits from its mate’s tail, I studiously pick apart my life until I drive myself to drink.  Instead of getting het up about what the world thinks of the recent shenanigans in Hungary, I am choosing to filter each perspective through the mesh that is my own experience. Instead of castigating the hoi polloi for their hedonistic lifestyles (shame that Opera Ball was cancelled, though), I’m choosing to indulge myself in books, travel, and world cinema. Instead of signing up to the cats chorus lauding the great achievers and their award-worthy achievements in 2011, I’m going to spend my time searching out their weird and whacky and oft-overlooked poor relations. For me, 2011 is going to be about the little things that make life worthwhile and the people that actually ‘do’ doing, instead of simply talking about it.

The random redistribution of wealth…

Some of you might know Victoria Mary Clark as Shane McGowan’s ex (him of ‘The Pogues’ fame). Some of you might have read her books or one of the many interviews she’s published with everyone from the wayward musician Pete Doherty to spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle or Osama Bin Laden’s sister-in-law, Carmen.  And then again, some of you might never have heard of her at all. I know I hadn’t until I happened across an interview with the good lady herself about this new Facebook group she’s set up: The Random Redistribution of Wealth to Total Strangers…Just for Fun!

You know that feeling you get when you put on a coat or jacket or jeans that you haven’t worn in ages and you stick your hand in a pocket and find some money? Or you dig out a handbag from the back of the wardrobe and as you’re tucking your wallet away in the zipped pocket you find some money? Or you’re searching for the pen you lost down the back of the sofa and you find some money? Finding money is one of the simplest pleasures in life: the joy of the unexpected, the element of surprise, the hope that it’s a sign your luck might finally be changing. No matter how much money you have earned, no matter how much you have squirrelled away in the bank or beneath the mattress, I defy anyone to deny the pleasure they feel at ‘finding’ money!

…to total strangers

The Random Redistribution of Wealth to Total Strangers…Just for Fun does that it says on the tin – it goes around randomly giving money to total strangers…just for fun. Total strangers, mind you. Not friends, or family, or colleagues. Total strangers. The amount doesn’t matter. Neither does the currency. It can be pennies or pounds, cents or euro, forints or… well… more forints. Its raison d’être is to randomly amuse these total strangers and to make them smile at their good fortune. And the strange thing is, if you get into the spirit of it all, you have fun, too. Trying on a pair of shoes? Leave 200 forints in the toe for the next person to find. Browsing books in a book shop? Stick 500 forints in your favourite read. Spot a flat window ledge? Leave a few coins. Use your imagination.

While the Giving Pledge in the USA invites ‘the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organisations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death’ Victoria Mary’s idea ensures everyone gets an invite to the ball, no matter where you live or how little money you have. Imagine if this caught on in Budapest…people finding money in Joszef Attila’s hat maybe, or stuck to the wall inside the Clark Adam tunnel, or on a seat in a metro station…it might just do something to lift the mood.

First published in the Budapest Times 17 January 2011

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