A phrase commonly heard in support groups and perhaps used when we feel a little uncomfortable at hearing another's tale of hardship is "Thank you for sharing." The notion of sharing troubles and tribulations has long fed an industry of Agony Aunts whose advice to their unseen correspondents is summarised and syndicated to newspaper readers worldwide.
Not much joy there, and certainly no real sharing.
The real joy of sharing of course comes from reaching out to others, understanding their needs and doing something practical to satisfy those needs. That joy, especially when the needy are under privileged children is often expressed in comments such as, "You should have seen the joy on their faces." That most happy of emotions works both ways - the children referred to were thrilled and the person commenting on their reaction was exhilarated in having contributed to their happiness. That's what the joy of sharing is about.
Murray Darling, managing director Starbucks Coffee Thailand has seen first-hand the joy of children who have benefitted from the tireless efforts of the Books for Children Foundation.
"Starbucks Thailand has been privileged for the past seven years to work with the Foundation and to share the spirit of joy that has inspired so many people to donate books to nurture a love of reading in Thai children," he says. "We talk about the joy of sharing, especially during this holiday season and I have to say Starbucks has come to really appreciate the value of helping to instil a love of reading that can also impart so much knowledge and wisdom," the Starbucks MD adds.
'Bringing books to the children and children to books' is how Ruangsakdi Pinprateep, Managing Director, Books For Children Foundation describes one of the aims of his organisation which has been active in its present form since 2001. "We are immensely grateful for the continuous support of Starbucks over the past seven years which, purely on a practical level, has resulted in some 70,000 books being collected for the Foundation. "There's much more to the Starbucks contribution though. We see part of our work as creating a 'bridge of love' that helps to bring the children and the books together. The publicity created by the annual Starbucks book donation drive is also immensely valuable in creating an awareness of the need to encourage a love of reading in Thai children," said the Books For Children Foundation Managing Director, who added, "The much more aspect of the Starbucks support is seen for example each month, when Starbucks partners volunteer to help read books and play with children with severe learning difficulties at the Rachanukul Institute as part of our 'Reading Therapy' project."
The message we can all take from the notion of sharing in the sense of helping others, is that the much talked about joy results from doing, rather than just expressing sympathy. When we make that effort as the Starbucks partners do in their monthly participation in the Foundation's reading therapy project, and as the thousands of people do when they dust of a batch of books from their shelves and bundle them up neatly to donate to the Starbucks Book Drive Project, when we do that, well as they say, it's its own reward. The two-way joy that comes from sharing is a bonus.
In a more general sense, Starbucks has been sharing the spirit of Christmas for more than 40 years in line with its philosophy of inspiring and investing in the communities in which it does business. But of course it is in this holiday season that the Christmas spirit really comes into its own, and at Starbucks Thailand it is also being seen in the "Starbucks Christmas Photo Contest", a fun sharing activity through the Instagram social media site that runs from 01 December 2012 to 02 February 2013 and which rewards winners with a host of prizes. There's a first prize for example of a Starbucks Christmas collection gift set valued at 4,000 baht and a 500 baht Starbucks Card and for the first runner up, a Starbucks Christmas collection gift set valued at 4,000 baht and a 500 baht Starbucks Card.
Participants can take photos of their favourite Starbucks beverages - Cranberry White Chocolate Mocha, Toffee Nut Latte, and Peppermint Mocha - and share the photo on Instagram with hashtag #StarbucksThXmas. Winners are those receiving the most 'Likes' on Instagram. Not part of the photo contest, but very much part of the celebrated Starbucks Christmas welcoming ambience is an array of newly designed gift items, the aroma of favourite beverages and the all-time favourite Christmas Blend whole bean.
There's a story of a man who loved Christmas so much that he decided for him at least, every day would be Christmas Day. Long after the traditional season of goodwill to all mankind had passed, he would greet friends and strangers alike with an effusive, "Happy Christmas." Those who knew him would humour him with a "Happy Christmas John." Most of those who did not, would give him a puzzled look. Some would mumble a "Happy Christmas" out of embarrassment. The story relates how, in the small community, everyone eventually followed John's lead and "Happy Christmas" became a standard greeting.
The good news from Starbucks Thailand is that although it may not celebrate Christmas year round, collection baskets for books for children will be in all its stores all year every year.
That has to be a great way to encourage the joy of sharing.
About the author
Writer: Kelvin Rugg