The Favor Bank

Call them by whatever name you like – favors, good deeds, helping out, or a helping hand – favors have been on my mind lately.

It started last week, when one of the women who work in our office needed a ride home. Her son was home from the Air Force Academy for several weeks, and he was monopolizing their one available car. We live just a mile or two apart, but about 25 miles, or 35 minutes away from work. (That is not a function of us living in the boonies. Rather, it is where we work that is “out there.”)

She was extremely appreciative of the ride offer and even offered to help pay for gas.  I told her not to sweat it; it just wasn’t that big of a deal. Dropping her off at home added maybe five minutes on to my 35-40 minute commute. It may have been a big deal to her as the recipient, but to me, it was a simple, no-brainer.

There are big favors and there are small favors. Giving someone a kidney is a big favor. Giving someone in your own neighborhood a ride home is barely worth mentioning.

Besides, as I told her, I was making deposits in the “favor bank.” I’m sure there will come a time when I will need a ride to or from work, or need some other small assistance. I’ll feel better asking her if  I already have some favors “deposited” in her “favor bank.”

I first heard the term “favor bank” from a friend and fellow news director when I worked in TV news. Our sister station, several hours away, needed a second satellite truck to cover a state election. Since we didn’t have an election that day, I gladly sent our truck and operator to work for them for the day. When I called the next day to see how everything had gone, my friend reported that his election coverage was a tremendous success, partly because of our help.

“Son, you just made a major deposit in the favor bank,” he said. “You just let me know when you want to make a withdrawal.”

The concept works well in business situations. From what we see on TV and in the movies, mobsters have the process of owing and paying off favors down to an exact science.

I have tried to convey this concept to students when I’ve talked with college groups about career issues. They hear a lot about networking to get job opportunities, but they often don’t realize that the networking can go both ways. If they can help a classmate/job seeker find a job-lead, they may make a favor deposit and a friend who might return the favor when they are in need. However, there is also a note of warning; they shouldn’t expect a one-for-one return. It never works that way. That’s all the more reason to keep a strong positive balance.

While a positive balance in the favor bank is convenient when you need a ride home or help moving a refrigerator, it’s not the best reason for helping people. I do believe a kindness extended to another benefits the giver more than the recipient. I just ran across a quote from the late UCLA basketball coach-philosopher, John Wooden.

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

Well said.

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2 responses to “The Favor Bank

  1. Hmmm…this is an eye opener for me. My husband is an extremely handy guy. He is always helping friends, neighbors, relatives with one home improvement project or another to the point that I get annoyed. It never occurred to me that all these favors probably just make him feel really good in more ways than one. And I thought he was just trying to get out of doing the stuff I wanted him to do at home 😉

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