Christmas Experiment: A Gift Exchange of Personal Connections

by Nate St. Pierre on December 15, 2012

Let me say right off the bat that I have no idea how this is going to work, or if it will even work at all. But let’s give it a try and see how it goes, okay?

A few days ago I wrote the following email and sent it out to my personal newsletter email list.

Well friends, it’s 1:00am on Wednesday night, and I just finished cleaning out every last piece of email. My Inbox is sitting pristine and empty right now, so I thought I’d check in with you guys and try a little experiment. (Yes, this is what I do instead of relaxing, watching TV, reading, or sleeping. Sigh.)

First of all, let me just say that I want to hear from you. Whoever you are, whatever you want to say, just reply and let me know. I’m looking forward to connecting with as many of you as I can over the next few days. So hit me with something, k?

Secondly, here’s something new I want to try . . . a little test that may help a lot of people out. If you’re up for it, I’d like you to tell me two things:

1) What you could USE help with right now (e.g. you want to talk to someone in the film industry, you need to find an accountant, you want to talk to someone who’s beaten cancer, etc)

2) What you could GIVE help with right now (e.g. you’re a financial planner, you do logo/site design, you love to listen and talk to people, you knit wool scarves)

I want to see what I can do with a bunch of people willing to give and receive help in absolutely any area at all. Do you think we can figure out a way to do a bunch of one-to-one connections to match people up with exactly what they want/need? I don’t know, but I’d like to try.

If I do anything public with this (make it a blog post to get more connections, etc), I’ll keep everyone anonymous unless/until I can do a personal introduction, so don’t worry about that.

‘Tis the season, guys. Let’s see how this goes!

Hit me,

I’m going to post some of the results here, and split them into two sections.

If anyone else wants to join in, just leave a comment with your 1) and 2) thoughts as well. If you want to take someone up on their offer, or if you want to fulfill someone’s need, leave a comment stating that as well.

I’m going to do the heavy lifting of personally connecting most of you, I guess, unless anyone can think of a better (and still simple) way to do it. If you have ideas, drop a comment too.

And with that, let’s get this Christmas gift exchange experiment started!

People who could USE some help

1. I just moved to San Francisco for work. I work with some great people, but I haven’t quite found ‘my people’…and I know that might take awhile, but I’d love to meet interesting people in SF! (web tech / social media community)

2. I could use help getting my eLearning business growing. Having been a consultant/contractor for several years, the majority of my projects are obtained through another eLearning Consultant who is based in Connecticut (I’m in Grand Rapids, MI). She is able to procure a ton of work based on my experience, so I know the work is out there and that I am capable of providing excellent results. I am ready to take on my own clients and grow a successful business. Problem is, though, that I’m more of the “creative” type (aka not great with time management; finances; etc.).

3. I inspire people with my story. I am currently working on my book and am featured in a documentary which it’s author hopes to go to the WI film festival. So I am positioning fairly well at the moment. But I need the opportunity to speak at churches, women’s groups etc…which I would gladly do for little or no cost other than expenses for travel.

4. As for what I need help with, I would not know where to start! Perhaps that is the thing, is there anyone out there who could help me prioritise and/or stay accountable? As an example, I should not really be replying to your excellent e-mail at present. I have a piece of work that I really need to have done within the hour – but your message just looked too inviting!

5. I am Wendy from New York and I need help organizing my home.

6. I wrote a book – I even sent you two copies – Nate is a great book – look at the Amazon early reviews and only three of those are close friends – my “little” book has the potential to change people’s work lives or at least how they look at life and work. It is short with a familiar tone and I am certain the more folks who know about it – the better we will be as a whole society. No lie. I need help spreading the word. Here the link: (not an affiliate link)

7. I’d love to connect with anyone in the Milwaukee area involved in marketing and/or copywriting. I do a lot of copywriting on a freelance basis and continue to grow, but my Milwaukee connections suck – most of the area doesn’t seem to be that thrilled with talking to freelancers for some reason. I’m thinking it’s a relationship issue. Maybe if I had an “in” or two that I could massage for a few months, I’d have better luck. Either way, I want a more prominent local presence.

8. My husband recently started a new company, and they don’t have a lot of overhead (it’s sales-on the road, no office.) I think they need an accountant. I say this because they are a force of two, and they have been paying themselves when they get around to invoicing, etc. Also, personally, we need a non-judgmental tax advisor. We lost our home to foreclosure after we lost our last business to the recession. So we were delivering papers for a few years, to pay the rent. We found ourselves falling behind in all areas, including filing taxes. Now we are several years behind, and it’s scary. We need help with this. We live in NJ.

9. One of my side gigs is copyediting manuscripts for aspiring authors before they pitch to agents. I’ve made several rounds of revisions for a particular author, but his book still isn’t polished enough to pitch. I need to pass him off to someone who can give him a fresh set of eyes on his manuscript — I’ve seen how far it’s come and so can’t be objective at this point about whether it’s any good, and I also don’t have the background to judge whether the material’s age-appropriate in addition to being grammatically correct. I’m looking for someone a) with publishing experience, ideally in the kids/YA realm, and b) who does freelance editing and is willing to work directly with an author as opposed to getting an assignment from a publishing house. I know that’s very specific, but if you can connect me with someone, it’s a paid gig for them and I don’t have to leave this guy hanging! I do job search coaching — resume review, interview prep, that sort of thing. I haven’t had a lot of luck getting clients (which I guess is something else I could use help with — advice on where to market!)

10. I could do with talking to an English teacher because I need to know if it’s really what I want to do when I leave university -.- (UK)

11. I could use help finding a new job, as I was just laid off for the winter. I am looking to make the switch into the geotechnical or natural resources industries with a position related to soil/materials testing or permitting. I am looking in the Northern Colorado area, but will consider down to Denver.

12. I could use help with some minor digital photo editing – very simple stuff, like making a handful of pictures look “better” and blurring out the backgrounds…. I guess maybe that’s not “simple” stuff… I have no idea what goes into photo editing 🙂

13. I’ve gone through a period of anxiety (to the point where I’ve isolated myself from life and people). Though I am getting better I sometimes get frustrated with the pace of my progress and ‘set backs’ along the way. Maybe to be able to correspond with someone who has been through something similar and how they have dealt would be useful? Only 1 or 2 close friends know the full extent of my illness (I think a lot think I’ve gone AWOL!) which I know only adds to the stigma of mental illness but I’m not willing to make myself that vulnerable to people while I’m still healing.

14. I have a 13 year old piano student whose mother told me she is self-harming and I got the impression she somehow wanted my help. So I could use some one telling me what to do. I still don’t know what I can do to help her and I’m not going to be seeing her for 6 wks. A piano teacher’s job is not that of a therapist though I somehow view music lessons as therapy for everyone and I know the difference kind words and acceptance can make to some one who’s feeling fragile. Your email made me realise that maybe it’s good that I am her piano teacher and maybe I can make a difference.

15. I would love to talk to someone who could help me get out of debt. Put me on a budget so to speak, we have way too much credit card debt and though we have paid off three of them(YAY) I would like to get the other 3 gone too, it seems almost overwhelming when I look at them.

16. i feel socially awkward so could use someone to coach me on how to be amidst unknown peoples and not do the adult version of the wallflower. there tends to be a waiting period for me with people – i have to be around and observe them for a bit before i venture into the conversing phase. i’d like learn to carry on conversations with random strangers without being fumble-tongued and/or halted. just writing this brings up my insecurities

17. I’m trying to find a tech cofounder for a media startup which I’m hoping to get into a tech accelerator. Already met with tons of people and gotten positive feedback. I’m looking for someone who knows javascript, jquery and node.js or any server-side language.

18. So what could I use help with…… being more organised – tips for organisation – i thought I was good at organsiation but for the last few weeks…

19. What I may need—friendship. Just a friend (since I can never have too many). I could also use help in securing personal health insurance for myself. I really need it and don’t know how to get started looking for it. I am also seeking a really good/proven flaky Christmas cookie recipe.

One of my selfish desires is to learn how to use my Canon EOS Rebel XS and all the features it has so that I do more than take pictures on Auto. If anyone can teach me I would be most grateful.

My husband and I have two children (22 & 18) and we cannot afford to buy either one a gift this year. We also don’t have money for groceries or for Christmas dinner. We would appreciate prayers to help us provide something. It has been very difficult since Oct. We are praying for better in 2013.

People who can GIVE some help

1. I heart my job but I think I want to try my hand at consulting (on the side). I’ve helped a lot of my friends get their businesses off the ground and have helped my company develop our City Marketing Manager program, which just went international! Not looking to make $$$, I just want to help people do more/make their businesses/ventures more successful.

2. i can give pet advice (to an extent), i can give away free jewelry or pet related items, and if anyone writes that they need christmas toys for their kids, hit me up

3. I love crafty-type stuff: knitting, crocheting, bead work and jewelry, scrapbooking, etc. I also like helping others in any way possible. Oh, and I was a single, teen parent of a bi-racial child. I have experience counseling young women who may find themselves in a similar situation. Now that I’m older (will be 39 in February and my daughter will be 21 next month), I can help by sharing my experiences and offer advice.

4. just checked my emails and found your message. I’m at work (it’s 9.15 am here), which is a college in the Midlands in England. The weather has been cold and frosty but not bad. There is nothing I need ( I just want my washing machine to last into the New year – which I think it will!!). I don’t know how I could help anyone – I have no talents to speak off – but quite happy to listen or even do a few chores: shopping etc.

5. What I can give if someone gives me the opportunities is ‘ideas and creativity’. I can help people compose a resume, write up a bio, put together a speech, coach someone towards their dreams. I can be a great cheerleader. I am also licensed to marry people in WI and will put together a very nice ceremony. My offerings: speech writing, performing wedding ceremonies, public speaking, my story, resume production, seeing other’s gifts and guiding them with ideas. (ahem, Encouragement)

6. I’ll start with what I can give. I have worked in the field of Mental Health for a number of years, and have battled – and beaten – depression on a personal level. I would therefore like to offer a listening ear, or computer screen, to those who could do with some encouragement.

7. I can teach others how to use social media, as well teach people how to enter sweepstakes for fun and profit. I also am am Occupational Therapist so I can help with setting goals and making goal plans as well as informal consultation on rehabilitation as well as pre vocational readiness for the chronically mentally ill.

8. I’m strategic business consultant – I connect people – my business is all about partnering with people to advance life and business. It comes in many forms – sometimes it’s marketing consulting to small and non-profits other times it’s strategic planning services – sometimes it’s merely connecting people that need to be connected with no transaction involved.

9. What I can give help with – I love to listen to people and help brainstorm through tough stuff (I can fix other people’s lives. Just not my own.) I’m a great editor, and provide excellent constructive feedback. Need help writing a resume? I just helped someone with his. Want a pretty picture to hang in your house? I’ll give you digital rights to print one of mine (I’d print it for you but hahahaha money is stupid). Need to know what to bake for your gathering? I can tell you. I can probably also give you an amazing cookie recipe. Want my bone marrow (I’m a registered donor. Booyah.). Want me to write you an uplifting lunch box note like I do for my kids? I could do that also. If someone nearby (MI) really wants family pictures and can’t afford ’em, I’d shoot ’em (everyone should have photographs if they want them). I don’t know. I have nothing monetary I can offer anyone right now – but I have a lot going on in my head and heart I can share.

10. I could take photos of a scientific experiment, survey, study, whatever, free of charge. (Los Angeles)

11. I’m a copywriter – mainly focused on direct response in the finance/investment industry, but I can apply my copywriting to a wide variety of industries and topics.

12. I can offer editing. I read all day long, and I am dismayed at the blogs that are sent out into cyber space that seem to have never been proof-read. And I probably would have fixed that last sentence I just wrote. I also bake soy-free, corn-free super-delicious chocolate chip cookies. My son is allergic to corn and soy. These cookies are the best chocolate chip cookies you will ever taste! I actually bake many things, and I’d be happy to bake for others.

13. I do have a great ability to cook Cajun food, I crochet and give great free veterinary advice. So if anybody has need of any of these skills please send them my way.

14. I do job search coaching — resume review, interview prep, that sort of thing. I haven’t had a lot of luck getting clients (which I guess is something else I could use help with — advice on where to market!) so I’d be happy to help out a couple of people who are job searching if they’re just willing to give me honest feedback and then spread the word if they’re happy with me as a coach.

15. I don’t have any real skills or anything that makes me particularly useful, but I’m good at listening and being supportive if people need someone to rant at.

16. I can give help with anyone trying to get an ebook ready for indie publishing on Amazon or other platforms.

17. I could help with nursing tutoring. I’m certainly not the smartest person on Earth. And I’m not even a nurse yet. But I am pretty smart at many nursing-related things 🙂 Other than that, that’s about all I’ve got… my brain has been consumed with nursing school!

18. At a really basic level I simply love helping people! I’m a good listener, non-judgemental, compassionate and really love being able to help people in life (no matter how big or small) and encourage them to see themselves for the amazing people they are and all the possibilities life has to offer. (excuse this if it sounds like a cv for a bad motivational speaker-ha!)

19. As for helping others, having suffered depression from age 12 and through my teen years, I came to the conclusion that, whilst questioning my life’s purpose then maybe it was to be there for others who were having a hard time.

20. I am an awesome listener, I feel like sometimes all we ever really need is someone to listen and to share with us. I also feel that I was put here on earth to help my fellow man in any way I can, whenever I can. This time of year is tough for so many people, just feeling lonely or hopeless. I especially like to show kindness to the homeless who live here in Albuquerque. I came from a small, small town in Montana and we never had homeless people, we always helped one another and cared for everyone. It’s been hard for me to move to this big ol city because so many people just don’t care and really, Nate, we are all in this together so why not lend a hand when we can?

21. not sure how this would apply, but i’m good at pep talks. if someone is feeling down on themselves i’m good at reminding them not to buy into the negative bullshit they’ve been telling themselves; reminding them that they are valuable, important, and extraordinary in their own right. with my friends this has sometimes translated into a love note. for something a little more tangible, i’m good at organizing – anything from spaces to documentation to…

22. What I can help with: Writing, editing, proofreading, content strategy, etc.

23. While my skill set is quite diverse, I believe the one that I might be able to do a lot of is listening…to anyone. I feel like my compassionate heart makes it possible to share endless supplies of love. So maybe, I could be just a listener to someone who is depressed or lonely or be a “pen pal”. I have suffered some pretty major traumatic events in my life that give me experience to understand someone else’s pain. I’ve been lucky enough to move past my own pain with the help of God. Time helps too and support of family and loved ones. But some people don’t have those available. Even if they do, it’s scary sometimes to admit to your family and friend that you have a problem.

24. What can I give – well I love crochet – I started learning back in the summer and its stuck – I have a baby blanket to do between now and February but if it’s a little/medium project I should be able to squish it in.

25. I enjoy doing anything artsy and craftsy. I sew, embroider, crewel stitch, paint and do most any type of craft. I would be happy to offer my services if anyone needs something for Christmas.

I am a Nationally certified pet therapy partner and am willing to offer my partner (Oscar Wilde–bunny) and my services to sit, talk, etc w anyone (NC area).

I am well-organized, detail-oriented and articulate. I am offering my writing talents to anyone in need.

Add anything you want below, and let’s see if we can do a good old-fashioned gift exchange of good connections this holiday season!

(p.s. I wasn’t thinking about it when I wrote it, but in deciding how to handle the responses, I realized it’s looking a lot like something The Bloggess did a couple of years ago, which was amazing, and just goes to show that you never know what will happen with these things, especially when your heart is in the right place.)

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