The Value of Giving
If there is ever a value that one should live by, it is the value of giving. Having a generous heart as well as a for-giving spirit will ensure a much happier life for you.
There is nothing like Christmas to bring this out and make it manifest in our lives.
Why Value Giving
One day I was given a book, The Giving Tree. It looked like a yawner, but I thought I would browse a few pages just in case the giver ever asked. I never put the book down until I finished reading it.
The key idea is that when we give to others without counting the cost or expecting anything in return, we get a lift so empowering that it can change our lives.
It's the old saw...the more you give, the more comes back to you. What goes around, comes around. Just keep giving and the joy you get back from life will make all the difference.
The Ritual of Gift-Giving
Gift giving is always an occasion. It is a rite that follows tradition in many countries and cultures. In China, you can't give gifts in white as this is the color of death. Or clocks as it marks your time here on earth (China) or an empty wallet or purse (Scotland).
At weddings in many countries, you have to give gifts in accordance to the status of the families you are giving it to. In Japan, gifts are wrapped so beautifully that you want to keep every wrapper you receive.
A Thai friend was just telling me that sometimes, in Bangkok, with the elaborate packaging that goes with everything and the time spent in making tiny flowers and decorations, the wrapper could cost much more than the gift.
But the time and care with which you prepared the gift is what really matters to the receiver. It expresses your level of caring. Mind you, the wrapping on a present by a four year old grandson may be the most precious of them all.
Giving without expecting a return
Many times though, we give but we expect a return. We get a little stuffy when people don't acknowledge the gift or if they don't writhe in excitement about its beauty.
Sensitivities peak during the unveiling process! Why so? Well, usually there is a bit of ourselves in the gift. We spent time looking for it. We thought carefully of what to get only to be dusted off with a smile or a "How nice". Maybe, we feel spurned when people do these to our gifts.
Once, I had this experience and though I still had to give after that, I just never put my heart into it. It was just an obligation and eventually I just stopped. I lost the joy. Yes, I disappointed the giving tree.
So, why can't we just give without thinking of what we can gain. It is a gift, right? So, why not give it freely? This is the best thing to do but we know that often we are weighed and we are found wanting in this category.
Giving is at the Core of our Lives
Giving is at the core of our lives. From the very beginning, our parents gave us life.
Giving birth is one of the gifts we all can truly appreciate. And we know that our mothers have to risk their own lives to do this especially in the side streets of the developing world. This is the highest form of giving because it contains the highest amount of risk for the giver.
This is why we always celebrate births and we keep celebrating birthdays.
A Christmas Carol - Best Story on Giving
Every Christmas, in our family, we watch this movie. The grandchildren each have their own lines now and their parents as well. But we love the 1951 version best.
Scrooge's transformation from a mean unhappy man to one who gave to everyone and loved by all is a triumph over the sadness in life, our own and around us. Get your self this 1951 version and let your heart be touched.
Greed has so much to do with our present economic situation. We often forget that the only way we will never feel wanting is in giving who we are and what we have to make life better for everyone.
Gifts are at Centre of every Celebration
Our consumer world has made the physical gift more important than the spirit and care put into it. Still, we love to give and receive gifts no matter what we say. This has easily become the center of every celebration.
A ritual is not complete without these gifts. So, let's make it more meaningful. Let's make it create a difference in someone's life.
A little thought and creative juice will make gifts matter to many people. These will be avenues for great values like love and caring, respect and appreciation, recognition of uniqueness and family spirit. Once, I was given a flute solo for Christmas. Another, a chance to walk a favourite dog. A grand-daughter's painting will remain posted on the wall forever.
A Celebration of Giving Thanks
Thanksgiving is celebrated in many countries all over the world. Many countries have thanksgiving celebrations in one form or another usually at the end of harvest.
This is one form of giving that we need to do as often as we can. We need to remember to thank ourselves for good things we do as a reminder to do the same to others when they excel.
Gift people your life achievement
As we grow old, we think of legacies. As Presidents and business leaders leave their office, they think of what they can gift people to mark their leadership or just give back in a sense of thanks for the trust given them.
There are many ways to do this. We can gift something to charity, create our own memoirs, write our own books or create trusts that future generations can benefit from. Some show leadership in giving time and energy to others (Jimmy and Ros Carter, Warren Buffet, Bill and Melinda Gates).
How other Cultures do their Gift Giving
Indeed gift giving is at the core of our lives and our culture. Each culture has developed its own rituals around gift giving for various occasions. They are all interesting and give a glimpse of what that particular culture values.
Gift Giving in Asian cultures
In most parts of Asia, gift giving is so much a part of the culture and for a Westerner who tries very hard to carry his or her own weight in the interaction, this can be easily misunderstood.
Most of Asia has a group based culture and gift giving is a major mechanism to keep these relationships strong especially when they hardly move out of the place where their parents and grandparents were born.
Every family keeps score and stories are passed on from generation to generation how so and so helped them when they were in dire need and lists of wedding gifts and funeral flowers or money are kept and consulted when someone dies or get married.
With Asians, if you miss out on gift giving, you lose a mechanism to strengthen your network. You often wonder why Asians have big suitcases. Those are mainly for gifts and because families are super extended, several suitcases are required. Most of the time, gifts are kept in drawers for those who might have been forgotten. Often, though, they have their lists and these are checked when gifts are bought and packed.
The cost matters, too. Even if they often say that it is the thought that matters, the price is duly noted. But not having money is not an excuse. Asians give all kinds of things. Being there to listen and just be with someone will also be duly noted. Any help extended for that matter...even just your presence. Get into it and just go with the flow.
The Gift of Receiving
We like to give but we are not very good at receiving gifts. We had been hammered for years that giving is better than receiving so we are often not comfortable receiving gifts.
Receiving is an art
Learn to receive
Of course, we have been taught over and over that giving is better than receiving. Well, maybe, but let's think it through. Maybe it's time we learn how to receive, with grace, energy, enthusiasm, warmth and consideration. When people receive your gifts well, the joy is doubled in you.
The appreciation we give people for the time and care with which they prepared a gift matters so much to the one giving. I just caught myself yesterday when a friend led me to a favourite restaurant to buy my favourites. She is not wealthy and when she paid for it I was so embarrassed that I immediately lunged for my wallet. Then, I caught myself and thanked her.
Today, I will call her and let her know that we enjoyed the gift for dinner and my husband finished everything from the main course to desserts. I know the joy this would bring me and it is the finest gift that can be given to the giver. The gift itself is just the platform for appreciation, yours to the giver.
Balance in Giving
Here is the catch. We are told many times that it is good to give until it hurts, that it is not really giving yet when we give not from our lack but from our abundance. Sometimes, though, giving more may not help someone grow so knowing when to stop is also crucial.
Often, we see friends who just keep giving until they become so bitter because they feel over extended. They have sapped all the energy they have and have nothing more to offer. Here is where we need to know where to draw the line. What are we giving someone? Is what we are giving making them better persons or hampering their growth and their own becoming?
It is good to take time out, stop and take a break and evaluate what we are giving, how we are affecting the other person and our own self. Is our giving making us a better person or a cynical old fool?
What our Monk Friend Tells us About Giving
Yesterday, we had a talk with our friend, a monk in one of the Wats here in Phnom Penh. We got talking about his family. He told us how he keeps telling them that even if they are poor and that they may not be able to give material things but they still can give goodness, kindness, happiness and wisdom.
This struck me and made me really think hard. Going home, I just showered people in the street with kindness and joy and I was a changed person when I arrived home. There was more life in me and more joy, too.
The Wisdom in Giving - Think about this
Giving is a manifestation of humanity in a world where fear and greed are the most important elements, giving is the antidote to both.
The real issue is whom to give, what to give, under what circumstances to give.
Once something is given, it takes on a new life...a different life...a lift to another human to achieve more. It becomes a magnet for good things to happen...takes an inactive resource and loses it to someone who can use it immediately to achieve something.
In a world of egomania, giving is the last outpost of caring humans...it makes people think that they are part of a whole. It is so important that major religions mandate it, make it part of life as there is this realization that it is important to a person's life.
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