You’re… welcome?

I’ve been having weird encounters with “Thank you’s” recently.  Weird meaning I don’t know how to react and that I feel odd accepting the Thank You.

When I went to Rwanda a couple of years ago, I met a little boy, Patience, seen above with his sister and mom, with whom, even though we couldn’t talk with another because my Kinyarwandan is a bit rusty, I fell in love.  His aunt was my host while I was there, shooting video for a non-profit.  Their family, like so many others, fell victim to the genocide.  The parents of Patience’s mother were killed and she was abused, and suffers post-traumatic stress depression today.  Patience and his family, like many Rwandans, are very poor; when we went to visit his house, his aunt stopped at the store on the way over to buy a couple bottles of orange soda and some cookies, and quietly slipped them to Patience’s mom when we arrived, so that she’d  have something to offer us.  They were extremely gracious hosts.  I loved teaching Patience to use my camera and listening to his sister Beigne sing “Jesus Loves You” in her broken English.  When I found out that Patience may not be able to continue his education because the family didn’t have the $400 necessary to send him to school for a year, I reached out to my network to see if anyone would be interested in co-sponsoring him, since I couldn’t afford it alone.

I was overwhelmed by the response, and in five days, had amassed the $400.  Thirty people gave average donations of $10 to $20, three of them complete strangers who were forwarded my inquiry.  That’s my favorite type of fundraiser, lots of people giving a little!  That was last year.

This year, due to the economy, I wasn’t going to send out another ask.  But then Patience’s aunt emailed to see if we could co-sponsor him again.  I timidly reached out.  Five days later, $400.

  • Hi Saya, Here is the $20 for Patience. Thank you so much for organizing this and allowing us to help.
  • Hi Saya! Thanks for setting this up.
  • Hey Saya, here’s my payment. It’s so nice of you to do this again this year!
  • Thanks Saya!

I found it so odd people were thanking me for taking their money, especially since it’s for someone they’ve never met and have no connection to.  One of the benefactors even let me know she has the above pic on her fridge.

On a very different yet similar note, on his way out the door, a Mingler guest recently grabbed my hand and said while staring into my eyes, “Thank you.  You’re doing the Lord’s work.”  Not being super close to God and since I had just met this guy hours previous, I wasn’t sure how to react, I think just smiled.  It was his genuineness that got me.  And his serious tone.  In my head I thought, “Dude, I’m not curing AIDS; I just create nametags, wipe down counters, and point to the bathroom.”

  • Your events were one of the highlights of 2009.  It is so nice to see people making an effort to have a good time with people they know nothing about.  It is very cool that we all come into your place under the same conditions (no one knows anyone). Very unique and freeing.  Thank you for making these events available to us, Saya.
  • Wanted to say THANK YOU so much for a wonderful time last night, had a great time. Thank you for opening your house to allow people to come in and make friends with total strangers.  Can’t say enough about what a great time I had last night, I look forward to attending an other Mingler in the future.
  • I definitely want to say thanks again for a great evening.  I had a wonderful time.  And what’s more, I get a second type of pleasure just knowing that there are folks like you out there–valuing people and human connection as you do–and working to make events like this happen.  The world is a better place because you’re in it.
  • Wow, what a great party!  I just wanted to tell you that I’m so glad I finally made it to one of your Minglers. I had so much fun, and met a bunch of great people.  I love your place, and loved the format of the party.  I’m so impressed at how well organized everything was.   It was really clear that everyone had a great time.  So thank you!

The way Mingler guests have been thanking me, I feel like they think I’m hosting them out of the goodness of my heart.  I do enjoy helping people make connections and definitely get a thrill when I see contact info being exchanged or hear stories about dates, friends, or jobs procured because of me, but there’s no way I’d be doing these events if I wasn’t making money on them.  The Minglers were created out of complete selfishness – I wanted to make a living in jeans and flip-flops, without leaving my home, playing games, and meeting new people.  And now I have people bringing me presents, sending thank-you cards, and writing really personal “I just got divorced, thank you for helping to ease my transition,” “I’m really shy, thank you for bringing me out of my shell,” etc. type emails to me, all because I don’t want to commute to a downtown cubicle to deal with an idiotic boss.