Eight or nine years ago I went to D.C. with my parents and brother over Easter weekend. I remember being shocked by the now abundant presence of homeless people in every part of the city that I hadn’t seen the last time I’d been there for business. On Easter morning, we walked an eerily empty National Mall, and we saw so many homeless men and women. I told my then 12 year-old brother that I intended to wish everyone with whom we crossed paths a happy Easter. He enthusiastically joined me and we found ourselves saying “Happy Easter!” to dozens of people. The incredible responses and smiles we received in return made my heart ache and was permanently etched on my brain and soul.
I’ve mentioned before that I grew up with a mother who gives. In any way she’s able, even when it is inconvenient or hard for her, she gives anything and everything she can to make things better for others. And let me be clear, while she certainly does this in spades for those she loves, she also gives to people she doesn’t know. It’s what she does.
I grew up with that sensibility. I too like to give in any way I can but there are times…there are times when I. Just. Don’t. Wanna. When I’m stressed, or overwhelmed, or down, or frustrated, or sad, or struggling in some way it’s hard to think about how I can help others. It’s hard to identify ways in which I can give of myself and make the world a better place.
Not coincidentally, if I’m in a space in which I feel I can give (love, kind words, etc.), I’m likely not going to spend too much time or energy on stress, frustration, sadness, or feeling sorry for myself.
I operate, most of the time, on the idea that you kind of get what you give. What you put out into the universe is, for the most part, what you will get in return. My summer has been a little challenging for me. I don’t think I’ve done nearly enough giving in the past several months. Whining? Yes…I’ve done some whining. Complaining? Sure…there has been some complaining. Frustration, sadness, irritation, and a little anger? Umm..yes…okay fine there has been some of that too. Giving? Not so much.
I had one of those days yesterday in which everything felt spot-on. I felt great, produced great work, and I felt like I needed to give. Something. Anything. I started looking around me for opportunities to do so. I was exiting from the highway and slowing to a stop at a light when I saw a man with a sign. I didn’t have cash. I did, however, have so much change that my purse likely weighed 87 pounds. I wondered to myself if it would even help. As I came to a stop I saw that the sign said “ANYTHING will help.” I rolled down my window, feeling like an a-shole, and handed him three dollars in quarters. “This is all I have on me, I’m sorry.” He thanked me profusely, flashed me a large smile, and my light turned green. From there I started to see little, teensy, seemingly insignificant opportunities to give to others. Whether it was a word of support, a connection to be made, or helping a colleague with a large project with which he wasn’t sure how to proceed. Ways in which I could give love, support, encouragement, and teensy pieces of myself started to pop up all around me
And it made me feel wonderful. And grateful.
Gone was the stress, gone was any trace of unhappiness, and what was left was this overwhelming feeling of fulfillment, and love, and certainty that I do indeed lead a really good life. I need to remember the way the giving makes me feel and how it transforms me into someone who is grateful and content. It’s easy to forget sometimes.
I recently read “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens. In it, Dickens describes how Oliver is deeply touched by someone’s kindness. He says “for the rest of his life, Oliver Twist remembers a single word of blessing spoken to him by another child because this word stood out so strikingly from the consistent discouragement around him.” I need to be better about offering a word of blessing, a glimmer of hope, a small kindness, or just a simple smile. Because let’s be honest, there are days that if someone offered the same to me, it would mean the world.
TODAY: What if I add GIVING to my list of priorities and to-do lists allowing me to reap the undeniable benefits of how it makes me feel? What if “a single word of blessing” can be the one thing that adds a spark of light to someone else’s day and/or life?