Cold Hard Kindness: The Psychology of “Hidden Cash Nola”

By Owen Richfield

In the spring of 2014, generosity got a mark-up when mysterious envelopes precariously began appearing all over the city of San Francisco. Inside the envelopes: a kind note and some cash. Within only four days, $4000 had reportedly been found by members of the community, who all had been led to the cash by clues tweeted by Twitter handle @HiddenCash. This creative redistribution of funds met international acclaim as more and more people around the world began their own smaller hidden cash movements; it was only a matter of time before New Orleans, a city prone to the wild and fantastical, would have its own movement. Dr. Sean Ransom, clinical psychologist and founder of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of New Orleans, decided to introduce the hidden cash phenomenon to the city he calls home. Little did he know, he had come late to the party.

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Hidden Cash Nola, a similarly designed Twitter-based charitable cash distribution organization, had already come into existence. Jumping at the opportunity to market his budding business, the eccentric Ransom extended his hand, using his private practice’s Twitter handle @cbtnola, to start a partnership. He agreed to provide the cash so long as “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” or “CBT” got in the tweet. What he did not expect was that this shot at cheap advertising would teach Sean and New Orleans a valuable lesson: the real value of money.

New Orleans is a city of place; every street, big or small, means something to someone. The sights, smells, and sounds of the French Quarter stand in stark contrast to the looming houses and green shadows of Uptown, and within each of these spaces lay microcosm neighborhoods hidden like insects within the earth. Consistent with New Orleans’ obsession with place, the Hidden Cash Nola required Ransom to drop his valuables in a place of meaning, subject to his own interpretation. Ransom was to hide the cash, photograph the location, and Hidden Cash Nola would tweet possible locations where fans may find their reward. On June 10th, Ransom expressed his love for jazz with his first drop of $25 and a payday at Tipitina’s. The affectionately-titled “Professor Longhair drop” came complete with a kind note. After getting his feet wet, Ransom was thirsty for more. The next day, he made another drop–this time at a much more sentimental location.

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The American Cancer Society Patrick F. Taylor Hope Lodge of New Orleans stands stoically at 2609 River Road, its doors open to cancer patients in need. Within, the patients may eat, sleep, and enjoy some comfort during their treatment, free of charge. Dr. Ransom, originally trained in cancer psychology, had volunteered at the Hope Lodge in Tampa while in graduate school. “It’s a sacred place. Wherever there’s a place where people are helping others without any for themselves is a sacred place and you have to respect that.” Naturally, this made a meaningful location to make his second drop. To his surprise, fans came out in force to find the cash. The winner, a young woman with Twitter handle @HI_imMEDIOCRE, entered the lodge to meet the patients, tweeting a picture of herself and Hope Lodge staff.

For Ransom, to see this woman’s glowing face meant far more than $50 worth of advertising. Earlier Twitter posts she had made had given him, a clinical psychologist, the idea she was suffering from depression: “She had this sense about the world that maybe things weren’t that great but then she found this thing. For a person to see their life blossom just for a few hours was really worth it.” Ransom, a devout Mormon, parallels this experience to a rarely-quoted Bible verse: “For wiser are the children of this world than the children of light. Make friends with your money so that when you fail they’ll receive you into heaven.” This example of kindness shows us that perhaps even cash, despite its cold, hard reputation, can buy much more than a subscription to Krewe.

 

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