Our parents or grandparents taught us this principle, often in the middle of our requests for some grand thing.
At the time, we probably didn’t hear it or felt it was a cop out or distraction technique to change the subject from the thing we begged for.
To say I didn’t understand his urging—that giving was somehow better than receiving—is an understatement.
If you’re like me, this puffy, patriarchal principle seemed something passed down from another time, an age gone by. A time when things were scarce, not plentiful. A time when pictures were black and white, not color, and things were hard to come by, not easy to accumulate like they were in my childhood (and easier than ever now). To me, this advice was from a bygone time marked by saving everything and “making due” (whatever a 9 year old could make of that strange phrase), and of a long, faraway look in my grandfather’s eyes when he thought perhaps too much of those hard, lean times when he was a boy.
(But perhaps, they are times more and more of us may be facing again)
Of course, this proberb’s lesson, as they are wont to do, seems to sweeten and perfect itself over time.
Giving Of Your Time Actually Gives You More Time
Our rise and grind culture of worshipping at the altar of the eternal hustle dissuades this belief, but for centuries, people have found that the more you see and be with other people around you, or open yourself up to the humanity that is present when we just stop and listen for it, the happier and more abundant your life will become.
And I argue you will have more time, and you will be more productive with your time because you will be happier, think clearer and have more energy.
If you are struggling, lonely, find yourself frustrated, anxious or afraid, I am moved by the calm that can come as you pull yourself away from the tightening, shrinkingly claustrophobic cares and concerns of your own life and open your heart wider to allow the life of another.
Perhaps a forgotten friend or a struggling neighbor.
A widow or a stranger.
Even getting to know your postal worker or the Amazon delivery person, or making a concerted effort to graciously thank your DoorDash delivery person can open your heart a little wider than before.
Thanking employees your come across for working and brightening their shift as you check out from the store or buy your take out meal can brighten your day as well as theirs. If this feels challenging to you, remember that they would probably rather be (and might need to be) home caring for a loved one rather than working, but they are deemed essential and have to work instead (which carries less and less paycheck and more and more risk these days).
In times of COVID-19, many people’s support systems are shrinking smaller and smaller. Rediscovering the joy of a phone call, letters across town like a pen pal, or baked goods delivered carefully to another’s door can lighten or brighten a day, a week or a year.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”
And, it turns out, giving is much, much better than receiving.
What will you give or give up today to have peace and more happiness tomorrow?