Happy Giving Tuesday 2017
So, we’re wrapping up our week of Thanksliving with Giving Tuesday, which seems fitting. It’s been a week full of things to be incredibly thankful for. We’ve had time with family and friends. We’ve had bountiful feasts and sumptuous desserts. We’ve had shop ’til you drop excursions and drop-dead doorbuster deals. Now we celebrate Giving Tuesday with a thankful heart and a spirit of generosity. Along with this specific day of charitable giving, we need to dedicate ourselves to a lifestyle of charitable living. Giving of ourselves selflessly is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves.
Living is Giving
That sounds a bit strange to us, though. We’re not used to thinking of life in those terms. Growing up, we saw things with a child’s eyes. We were only concerned about ourselves and our own needs. Sure, we sometimes did things to make our family and friends happy. Drawing a picture for mom or dad was a way to express our joy for life and our love for them. Most times, we just thought about what we wanted or needed.
In fairness, children can afford to be selfish because their parents take joy in their very existence. Just watching a child learn to walk, talk, run and play is part of the reason we have them in the first place. Their sheer joy in living their lives and learning to do new things is well worth the price of admission. Just seeing a child’s beaming smile or listening to them sing a little nonsense tune to themselves just because they’re happy being happy is part of what makes being a parent worthwhile. We get so much joy from our children in spite of their childish self-absorption.
Part of growing up was learning how we fit in to society, how it wasn’t always just about us. We needed to learn teamwork, empathy, cooperation. We needed to learn how to fit in. Some of us even learned that the best way to function in society was to bear a servant’s heart. Looking out for others is an excellent way to engender reciprocal feelings and foster friendships that were mutually beneficial. When you consider it, that’s still a bit childish. Doing things for others in order to inspire appreciation, reciprocation and cooperation is still pretty manipulative. It may feel altruistic, but if your good intentions aren’t mirrored back by your peers you feel pretty put out or even just used. When you do things and you don’t even receive a modicum of appreciation in return, it can rub you the wrong way. That’s because you’re not really being altruistic. You’re being manipulative. Don’t feel too bad, though. It’s not unusual. It’s generally considered to be only fair that one hand washes the other. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. If you’re stuck with an itchy back, you’re going to be pretty irritated about it.
Honestly, though, if you’re irritated because your good deeds didn’t result in a glowing thank you aren’t you still operating on a fairly childish level? Aren’t you being a bit myopic? Is it really living in gratitude waiting for others to be grateful to you? Do we really need others to be grateful to us in order for us to live gratefully? Do we really need to express gratitude to anyone but God? Is it possible that we should do things just because we can do them and not worry about who’s giving us brownie points for doing them?
Giving is Living
Maybe, we can go one step further. Maybe, we can take responsibility for our own happiness by being kind and thoughtful to others regardless of their disposition. Perhaps we should do things because they need doing and forget to keep a ledger of who owes us in return. Maybe we can be the sun that burns off the fog in someone’s life without worrying about what we’re getting in return. Maybe we can be the trailblazer who leaves signs for others to follow so that they can travel life’s twists and turns in safety.
It’s been observed that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. Our joy can be found in simply giving of ourselves however we can. That doesn’t mean you have to let others take advantage of you. You still have things you need to do and you need to prioritize your family and friends appropriately, but don’t shrink from an opportunity to do a good turn daily (as the Scouts say). There’s no harm in random acts of kindness. Even if you don’t see the specific outcome of the good you do, it’s entirely possible that your unreserved kindness may be the one thing that pulls someone back from the edge of the abyss.
There have been many cases where people who were in the lowest ebb of life, some even contemplating suicide who were drawn back to the realm of hope because someone took the time to smile at them. That one tiny act of kindness was enough to rekindle the flame of hope in their souls and give them the strength to give life another chance. You could be that ray of desperately needed sunshine for someone today. Don’t walk around entirely in your own head or face down in your phone like a zombie. Acknowledge your fellow humans. Let them know they are worthwhile. Let them know that someone recognizes that they even exist. It may just be the medicine their soul needs. Even if you never know the outcome, they will and so will God. When you’re called home someday, he’ll probably let you know how many days you brightened and how many people you helped just by living in gratitude and spreading kindness without reservation. Be that hero.
Just because our Thanksliving Week is over, doesn’t mean you have to drop the gratitude. Be grateful. Be happy. Live in love and kindness and your life will be a lot more enjoyable.