By Mark Andrew Beach
Many years ago, my son Christian, did not understand the principle, “It is more blessed to give than to get”. The actual quote says ‘receive’, but I would like to redefine receive a little later on in this and future discussions, so I am going to take the liberty of differentiating between getting and receiving. Anyway, it is not hard to see the wisdom in this maxim. Proper giving is an act of selflessness, while a focus on getting is an act of selfishness. It is not uncommon to see this kind of selfishness occur among young children as this is something they need to learn and be taught by wise adults.
One thing I find amazing to me and funny if it were not so embarrassing is when this kind of selfishness is manifested among adults. Shouldn’t we know better? I have sat in family groups around a Christmas tree and other trappings of the holidays and watched aghast as someone as reacted in a selfish way about a gift that was given to them. A very common reaction was this:
“Gee, I hope you put the receipt in here because this is not…” fill in the blank, the right color, model, what I wanted…or, “You know I don’t like…” fill in the blank.
What are we teaching our young impressionable children when we as adults carry on this way?
Anyway, I wanted to address this issue early on in the story because I had so many “deeper” subjects to cover. I used my role as a dad to teach my young son the basics of this principle early in his life so I could move on to teaching him things more important to his and others’ ultimate way of living. So let’s move on to deeper applications of giving:
So not only is it better to give than to get, but it is also important to give of ourselves. It was in one of his essays entitled “Gifts”, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing…”
Gifts made of personal sacrifice are even more significant, such as when a child gives up something very special to them like a favorite toy, or when one gives up something they were looking forward to for themselves to someone else who needs it more than they do. Now the gift becomes a meaningful, a life affirming, yes, even a spiritual experience. We become something of a messenger of God; an archetype of Christ. I suppose that would actually make us more Christ-like in our way of being and understanding.
I learned this lesson in a very poignant way about three years ago when I was at my high school’s 30th annual reunion – yes, I am that old. I was speaking to one of my former classmates, a wonderful woman about an event I was involved in nearly thirty years earlier. Only a couple of weeks after high school graduation I was in a tragic automobile accident. Another of our classmates was in the same car and was killed. I survived but was in critical condition, underwent immediate surgery and was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. But the lesson was this: I did not recall much about those weeks in the hospital. During my conversation with this sweet classmate, I made mention of several mutual friends who had been to see me often while I was staying in the hospital and expressed my appreciation for their caring enough to come see me, bring me food and other “gifts”.
Then this lovely woman turned to me with what seemed like sadness in her eyes and said, “I too, visited you in the hospital back then. I came to see you everyday you were there.”
Wow! I was floored. I had no idea. No recollection. Nothing. I felt bad that I did not know about her gift to me and I still didn’t know what to say. As I looked into her eyes and her soul I saw something that amazed me even more. I saw the personal sacrifice of her time, concern, love, and caring that she had shown, unbeknown to me three decades before, still reflected in her eyes and on her face. To me in that moment she looked angelic. I wanted to scoop her up in my arms, hug her tight and roll back 30 years of time to a place where one thoughtless kid could thank a beautiful, sweet girl for her gift of self.
Debbie, Thank you again, wherever you are. That piece of my heart will forever be yours.
More on giving coming soon.