The holiday season has a way of calling forth our best selves. Generosity shows itself in extraordinary ways, and acts of kindness are more common to see. There’s just something in the air that makes us want to give a little extra, be a little kinder, and embrace the magic of the season.
But once the holidays pass, Janeil Lester (Sales Executive at Old Republic Title) noticed, most of us tend to fall back into our routines and we can find ourselves going through the motions of life with metaphorical blinders.
Janeil happened to see a “feel-good” story on television around Christmastime in 2019. A group of men would meet for lunch during the holiday season, and they’d each leave a $100 tip for the server. “The story highlighted how impactful it was for the server, and I thought to myself, ‘Why do we only do this at Christmas?’” So, seeking to be the change she wished to see, Janeil sprang into action.
She began calling friends, colleagues, and clients — one of whom was Carol Carr of JPAR – Real Estate. “Janeil told me she wanted to feel this sense of fulfillment beyond the Christmas season and be able to bless people year-round, and then with all the sadness that came in 2020, we knew people were desperate for some positivity,” Carol said. Both ladies said finding participants for the initiative was not difficult, and the group, which came to be known as the “Blessed to Be a Blessing” group, took shape quickly. “People want to give back,” Carol said, “And they want to create that feeling of Christmas magic throughout the year. Sometimes they just need someone to get the ball rolling.”
The concept was simple: Gather 10 participants, drop everyone’s favorite local restaurant into a hat, choose one restaurant for lunch or dinner each quarter, and leave a $1,000 tip for the server. Janeil and Carol said the best part is that it’s always a surprise for the server, and they love getting to see their excited reactions. The group’s members have remained fairly consistent, Janeil said, with only one or two changes throughout the year and a half of the group’s existence.
Sometimes the ladies will try to go when their favorite servers are working, but more often than not, they opt to bless a total stranger. “We believe it’s in God’s hands,” Carol said, “And whomever is sent to wait on our group is sent to us for a reason.” Janeil and Carol said they’ve unknowingly been able to help fund honeymoon trips, a struggling college student, and new school clothes for children whose mother could not afford them.
For Janeil, it’s personal, she said. “I was a single mother, and I know how hard it is,” she recalled, “And because the real estate industry has blessed me so much, I think it’s only right that I give back where I can.” Carol, through tears, shared a similar sentiment: “The real joy of having is giving. And I cry every time we have one of these outings, because I just have a soft heart for every single of one these people we get to bless. It’s such a gift to be able to give.”
Janeil began posting these lunch outings on social media in an effort to spread a little cheer. Unbeknownst to her, it ignited a bit of a chain reaction. People started reaching out to her, asking to be a part of the group. Even better, though, Janeil encouraged them to start their own groups instead, gathering friends and colleagues from other circles of the industry and expanding the generosity footprint even further. Carol and Janeil spoke of multiple groups they know of that have formed as offshoots of the Blessed to Be a Blessing group. “We’re always encouraging people,” Janeil said, “Even if you can only get four or five people to join, just go and give away what you can! Opportunities to bless other people are always there, you just have to look for them.”
In addition to the group’s quarterly meals, Janeil said she sometimes hosts “pop-up” lunches to give others the opportunity to join in on the group’s initiative on a one-off basis. She’ll post the date, time, and restaurant location on social media, and whomever can join that day will meet at the restaurant and experience the joy of giving alongside their colleagues and friends. The idea, Janeil said, is to encourage and empower them to lead the charge in their own communities with their own friends. Janeil and Carol’s group dines mostly in north Dallas and the northern suburbs, given that that’s the area where most of their business takes place, but they would love to see this initiative catch on fire across the DFW metroplex.
I mentioned my own admiration for the initiative, and their immediate response, of course, was, “So, start your own group!” That’s the message they want to share: Start where you are with what you have, and if you have an instinct or opportunity to improve someone else’s life in even the tiniest way, take it. Their generosity is a reminder not simply of the needs all around us, but of the opportunities we have every day to spread joy to others. The real estate industry is such an exciting, full world to live in, but Carol and Janeil want to do all they can to remind their peers of life outside the real estate world, and that if you consider yourself blessed, then you are blessed for a purpose: blessing others.