“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran
I follow @michaelchatman on Twitter. Michael is a ‘Global Ambassador of Giving’ and “one of America’s most listened to voices in philanthropy”. He hosts #WHYiGive, every Tuesday on Twitter, where he encourages his followers to say – in 141 characters, including the hashtag #WHYiGive – why THEY give. The reasons given are inspirational – and varied.
Reading through the tweets made me reflect on why I give and there is only one answer – because it feeds my soul.
I have met a lot of people in life who haven’t quite got the hang of ‘giving’. Take volunteering, for example. Someone I thought I knew really well once said to me “I don’t understand why anyone would ever choose to volunteer. Why would anyone do something for nothing?” The comment made me look at that person in a whole different light. I realised I really didn’t know them at all. I tried to explain, but it was futile and that made me very sad. Why? Because that person will never know the joy that volunteering brings… the warm cosy feeling you get when you know you have helped someone… if you have ever volunteered, you will know what I mean.
‘Giving’ means different things to different people. For some people it simply means buying gifts for their friends and family, especially on birthdays and other special occasions. Sometimes they then tell the people who they had so much fun buying presents for, ‘not’ to buy a gift in return. They can be quite adamant about it. They may take this stance for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is that they are depriving their friends and family of the joy of giving, which could be perceived as being a little selfish. Ben Carson famously stated “Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.” Have you ever had great pleasure in buying, wrapping, giving a gift to someone and then instructed them not to buy for you? Perhaps you don’t really ‘need’ anything, or you may think that they can’t afford to buy you a gift? There can be many reasons for making such a request, but perhaps a kinder approach would be to explain that you don’t really need anything, but you do have a fondness for….. and suggest something that they could make/easily afford, e.g. fruit cake, chocolate truffles, breakfast tea….. Or after explaining that you don’t really need anything, you could add “unless you happen to see any (suggest something unusual and inexpensive) because I can’t buy it anywhere.” This not only relaxes the ‘no giving’ rule, but with most things being available via the internet it will enable them to do a quick search, hopefully find the item and experience the joy of buying, wrapping, giving…. knowing that they have bought the perfect gift for you!
Another form of ‘giving’ is the increasingly popular Random Acts of Kindness (RAK). In fact, I am a RAKtivist. Social Media is full of tales of RAKs, for example people paying for the groceries which the person behind them in the queue had planned to buy, food and drink being given to homeless people, special messages being written on restaurant bills for the waiting staff and indeed, the waiting staff writing messages on the receipts for special customers. Acts of kindness towards strangers is not a new phenomenon and many of us grew up with ‘helping others’ as a core value, which was reinforced at Brownies, Cubs, Girl Guides, Scouts, The Girls Brigade and within many other groups to which we may have belonged. Other core values were to respect your elders, to speak when you’re spoken to, to give up your seat on public transport for a lady, or a mother & child, or an elderly person… the list was endless and sadly many of those values seem to have been diluted with the passing of time. Perhaps, in the future, all of the old traditional values will become de rigueur, but for the time being let’s concentrate on giving.
My favourite type of giving, is when I give my time and energy to someone who needs help with something, which they would have struggled to have done on their own. I don’t like to see anyone struggle, so if I have the capacity to help them, I will. We all have different skills and abilities; sharing them with each other, and giving a little of ourselves, can make a huge difference both to us and to those around us. I am convinced that everyone has something to give, if they choose to. Sadly not everyone chooses to, although people like Michael Chatman and organisations such as Kindness UK may encourage them to change. A banner on the Kindness UK website quotes Princes Diana “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” November 13th is both World Kindness Day & Kindness Day UK – the perfect day for Giving and the perfect day to feed your soul.