In a town called Hail in Saudi Arabia, an extraordinarily simple and generous act of charity can be found on the street in front of one man’s house. This man, who prefers to remain anonymous (so you know he’s not doing this for fame and fortune) has installed a refrigerator in front of his house. He has called on people in his neighborhood to put food in it whenever they can in order to help the needy. This food could be in the form of leftovers from dinner the night before, or freshly cooked food a family has no need of or who just wants to donate.
While this Saudi man might not want fame and fortune for his generous act, the story took off when Saudi Muslim cleric Sheikh Mohamad al-Arefe tweeted to his 8.6 million followers about it, saying: “I’ve always said the people of Hail are generous. A man puts a fridge outside his house for leftover food; an indirect act of charity for the needy. Oh how I love you, Hail!” As of the writing of this post, the tweet has been retweeted more than 7,000 times.
This man’s refrigerator and Sheikh Mohamad al-Arefe’s tweet have prompted a movement. Saudi leaders are calling for mosques and citizens who have the means to do so to put refrigerators outside and stock them with food as it is available for the needy of the country. Since people can just walk up and take the food without having to speak with anyone, the thought is that this will alleviate much of the stigma that comes with taking charity and asking for food. If people can follow thorough on this, it would be an important act of charity before the end of June, when the fasting month of Ramadan begins.
This is just further proof that a small act can bring about great change for those who truly need it. These seemingly small acts of charity are happening all over the world, the United States included. Michael Swaine, a San Francisco man, has taken one day a month for the past 11 years to mend people’s clothing for free, for example. He describes himself as a “fibers artist… or a social artist” and he sets up shop outside of the nonprofit artist’s collective in the Tenderloin district, the Luggage Store, once a month. People in need come to him with the clothes they need mending, and he mends the clothing for them for free. A little bit can go a long way here; a mended suit, for example, might give a person the opportunity to go to a job interview and get that job he or she desperately needs. Kids being able to go to school without holes in their clothes can give them the confidence they need to focus on their education.
Also in San Francisco, the nonprofit company Lava Mae has started turning decommissioned buses into showers for homeless people in the area. Lava Mae founder, Doniece Sandoval, got the idea as she was riding through the city’s South of Market neighborhood — an area known for both its wealthy business people and its homeless population. Knowing there are only a handful of places where the city’s homeless can bathe, Sandoval set about finding a way to fix that problem and landed on the idea of using decommissioned buses: an idea that’s both charitable and green.
In a city of more than 6,000 homeless people, San Francisco seems to be the perfect place to set up shop for a new charity. However, need is everywhere. As an internet-based writer known only as “Sniper” said of the man in Saudi Arabia, this is a “simple, but far-reaching idea… That is exactly what we needed: A simple, but bright idea that goes a long way in helping people.”
That is exactly what Saudi Arabia needed, and it is exactly what the world needs. By implementing all of our simple ideas, we can help the needy one person at a time.
Photo Credit: Ben Tesch