Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Joy of Giving

Anne's comment to the post about tipping, prompted some thought about what's involved in giving and receiving. Our text today, campers, is: What a joy it is to give and how generous of those who receive!

Let's think about it. I have always felt good whenever I freely gave someone something. A present, money to a friend in need, time to someone who asked for it, a donation and even a tip.

Does anyone take pleasure in feeling somehow superior to the person receiving? Do you? Not that I have seen. Most people delight in the ability to have something that someone else might value.

Giving feels good. It is "blessed," or healthy, or just plain happy to give. Whatever you gave, if you had kept it, wouldn't it eventually have broken or become boring or useless or forgotten?

Does anyone really get pleasure in looking at the balance in their savings account? OK, so you feel secure for a moment, then you think about what it won't buy. How much money is enough, John D. Rockefeller was once asked. "Just a little bit more," he replied.

The deed of giving stays with you. It feels good. It's a memory you can always recall. It's a memory others will have of you. It doesn't cost anything, it doesn't wear out. It can always pick you up. ("I may feel terrible today, but look what I did for ... yesterday.")

Now about receiving, I have a little anecdote.

A number of years ago, shortly I was in the selection committee for the rector of the Episcopal parish I attended (long story, for another day), the priest we ended up choosing gave me a ride home one evening. I explained that I didn't have a car and the buses might be infrequent at the late hour, etc.

"How wonderful!" she said. "You go around giving others the chance to give you a ride and get to know you better."

I had never thought of it that way. I was always just the guy who had to ask for rides when it was late or I was in the burbs. Suddenly, I was the guy who gave other people the opportunity to give.

Receivers are heroic in ways large and small. Life deals them a need, yet here they stand and carry on, with dignity. They receive with a smile.

In a way, receivers give the joy of giving.

We'll go to a meeting and I never get to do a good post-mortem in the car with someone, as I often did. Nothing more empty and solitary than getting into your own combustion-engine bubble. I have a car now. I love giving people rides, although all too many people have their own cars.The car will need repairs. It will cause me to fret and worry. I'll eventually get rid of it.

But the conversations I had as a rider, many of those are forever. The people who gave me rides can also recall how good and neighborly they were. They can treasure that always, too. Thanks to me, who was there to receive.

In addition to the joy of giving, there's the generosity of receiving.
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