Last month, a reality show called “Secret Millionaire” came to ABC, and we've been intrigued ever since.
The premise is as follows: Millionaires go “undercover” into impoverished neighborhoods, living alongside the community and surviving on the equivalent of food stamps or welfare (often around $6.50 per day). Gawk-factor material is watching the millionaires adjust from private jets and beach mansions to tattered couches and no AC. At the same time as they deal with this culture shock, they seek out worthy individuals and causes in the community. At the end of the week, they "come clean" as undercover millionaires to the community, and donate money to worthwhile causes and individuals.
Gimmicky reality TV emo-drama? Sure. A little uncomfortably condescending? Perhaps. Inspiring? We say yes. While the premise is a tad out there, the show (which has a huge international following, given its original version in Australia) is about giving--and we’re always grateful for mainstream TV that promotes giving.
The secret millionaires end up donating up to a few hundred thousand dollars per episode, and in the process, many of them grapple with their preconceived notions of poverty, gain new perspective on their wealth, and are humbled by those getting by on very little but still trying to do good. Our favorite part of the show was seeing how passionately and selflessly the community members spoke of their service work, completely unaware that they were in the presence of someone who could make them a large donation.
It's All About the Mindset
At the end of the day, we're less interested in the actual amounts of these donations than the mindset they inspire. (After all, there are many ways to give that don't involve money, or require just a small gift.) It's so easy to go through our daily lives while ignoring the worthy causes right in front of us in our own community. But complacency is an obstacle to real change.
LearnVest Contest: You Can Be a “Secret Millionaire”
OK, we're aware that we're not all millionaires. And going undercover may be a stretch. But we want to inspire you to think like a "secret millionaire" in other ways.
We’re giving $250 to one LearnVest reader (and $100 to two runners up) to give away to worthy causes, after spending a week "undercover" as a secret donor.
Here's how the social experiment will work:
- The LearnVesters will go through one of their typical weeks, but this time with new eyes--proactively open to the needs of the community and individuals around them, seeking worthy causes they may have overlooked before
- They should not start this experiment with a preconceived notion of who or what they want to donate to—figuring that out will be part of the process
- They'll journal about their experiences and thoughts each day
- At the end of the week, they'll tell us the causes or worthy individuals they've decided to donate to (and how much to each), and why, and we'll make the donations in their names
- We will publish these stories in an upcoming LearnVest Daily
We don't think you have to go undercover or be a millionaire to make a difference in your community. But we like the mindset such a show can inspire.
To enter the contest, tell us in the comments below why you think you should be the LearnVest “Secret Millionaire”—and share your thoughts on the show if you've seen it!