“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
– Winston Churchill
GIVING. How generous are you? Do you give freely or are there usually strings attached?
At a time when your bank account may be lower than last year and the stresses may be higher, it is even more important to understand the power of giving. We are living in a collective – a shared space and time. Every action you take has a corresponding re-action, a ripple effect with positive or negative consequences. It taps into the principle of cause and effect which forms one of the fundamental laws of the Universe. You’ve heard it before: “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Some may say that we have abused this law by “societal hoarding” – a sense that we must accumulate or else experience lack. The way to turn this cycle around is to demonstrate our faith in abundance and give freely. When you give you start a chain of good. As Sir Wilfred T. Grinfell said, “The purpose of this world is not ‘to have and to hold’ but ‘to give and serve.’”
Have you ever done something for someone else and then received “a bonus” in another area? It may have seemed entirely unrelated, but the good still came back to you. I’ve experienced this in my own life. In the last ten years as a social entrepreneur, I’ve had the pleasure of offering free wellness and empowerment programs to a variety of underserved groups. Some people around me thought I was crazy to devote so much time to unpaid work. After all, with a MBA from Harvard, I was trained to focus on creating monetary value. However, with each community program I led, I ended up receiving so much more than I had given. I struck up new relationships, heard extraordinary stories of courage, and walked away with a sense of joy and connection with something bigger than myself. On top of that, I would usually receive an unexpected and seemingly unrelated “bonus” through a new corporate client, a large speaking engagement or boost in product sales. It was like Divine was saying, “Keep giving… I have your back!”
Take a moment to think about what you’ve been given. You probably received love from a parent, grandparent or guardian. You most likely received some level of education. If you live in the United States, you have been given certain freedoms and a sense of security that others around the world don’t have. With almost 36 million people living in poverty in the U.S. and almost half the world living on less than $2.50 a day, you have much more than most. Giving comes from this sense of gratitude, and is a wonderful panacea for a depressed spirit. Instead of throwing a pity party for your own problems, you can make a positive difference in other people’s lives, and in turn, gain a greater sense of fulfillment. In fact, research has shown that giving is actually good for you. In one study in Michigan, men who did volunteer work had lower cholesterol levels, decreased incidence of chest pains and an overall reduction of stress versus men who didn’t volunteer. Possible reasons noted are the feeling of being more connected to others and the sense of greater purpose. Despite the daily grind, I believe we each want to feel we’ve contributed to the betterment of this world. It goes back to what management guru Peter Drucker said about the role of a non-profit institution. “Its ‘product’ is neither a pair of shoes nor an effective regulation. Its product is a changed human being… a cured patient or a child that learns.” Imagine helping to produce that! That’s what you do when you serve.
The more you give, the more you receive. However, how you give matters. The attitude you bring to giving is important. In yoga, it’s called seva – selfless service which comes from your heart with no expectation of receiving anything in return. It is something you would do if no one noticed or even thanked you. It is really about sharing your own humanity and it has an energetic value. If you give someone something with strings attached or only for a tax break, then it’s really to appease your own ego or increase your net worth. When you give unconditionally with love, it expands the Universe. You may be thinking, “I want to give but I don’t have a lot of money right now.” That’s okay. Start where you are. You have more to give than you probably realize and there are many ways to give that don’t involve money. You can give your time, knowledge, talents, encouragement, or even small acts of kindness. Take an hour or two on the weekend to help someone else. Pack an extra apple or banana in your bag to give to someone who may be hungry. Work on expanding your company’s corporate responsibility initiative.
When it comes to actual holiday gift-giving, be creative. If you are a beauty aficionado, give someone a makeover. If you love to bake, whip up some home-made biscuits. Be thoughtful. If you know your sister really enjoys a certain poet, compile web sites that feature some of the author’s best work. If you know your significant other has been really stressed out, do research for free community yoga classes. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make an impact. As one proverb says, “If you have much, give of your wealth. If you have little, give of your heart.” Most of all, remember that your presence is the greatest present you can give.
Today, I give freely.
I share what I have with others – whether it is money, food, knowledge, talent, encouragement or even a smile. I know I will always have what I need and trust that I will always have more than I want. I understand that I am a part of an interconnected whole and I honor the law of cause and effect. The more I give from the heart, the more I receive.
Today, I give freely.
Listen to the Affirmation:
Copyright Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy. Power Living® Column Vol. 74.09, originally published December 2009. Teresa Kennedy has written over 70 “The Power of…” columns that are a part of the Power Living® Empowerment Series and available for syndication. Call 212-901-6913 for more information.
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