Friday, October 8, 2010

The Gift of Giving

Throughout my life I've been the recipient of numerous gifts. I'm not talking about things that come wrapped up in a box – I'm speaking of the intangibles. Just as we need oxygen, water, food and sleep to exist, our spirit and soul need to be nourished with equally important gifts: love, respect, kindness, humor, friendship, and affection. We can get through life without the tangibles (token gifts), as fun, extravagant and thoughtful as they may be, but I don't believe that we can get through life comfortably and well balanced without the intangibles.

The truly astonishing part of this intangible gift giving is, that we benefit more when giving than when receiving. We've always heard that it is better to give than to receive, but the ramifications of being the giver extend and give energy that is boundless. The ripple effect can stretch and move in any number of directions, and continue to do so ad infinitum.

Many of us heard the "pay it forward" story involving a drive through lane at a local fast food restaurant. One of the customers was holding up the line for an unusually long time, for one reason or another. When the customer finally pulled forward and the next in line approached the window to pay for his order, the employee told him that his bill had already been paid by the person ahead of him as an apology for the lengthy delay. The gentleman was so overcome by the random act of kindness, that he, too, decided to pay for the person behind him.

And so it went for the next several hours. One person after the other paying for the next in line, just as their order had been paid for by the one ahead of them.

These "feel good stories", because of their rarity, generally gain national attention. Around the holidays we very often hear of "Silent Santas" and other charitable acts. As wonderful as it is, and as good as it feels for the giver and receiver, it is short lived. Come January of the new year, as the holiday lights are taken down and packed away, old habits start to reform and everyone goes back to the old ways. All of a sudden, no one lets you in line on the roads, and post-holiday impatience is rampant in check-out lines and, sadly, between family members, friends and strangers. Yet, it doesn't have to be.

We live in a fairly competitive world. If only we were all out there trying to outdo others in random acts of kindness. A wish, a statement, a challenge? Choose and make of it what you will. But if you do take it as a wish, wish long and hard. If it is a statement, take heed. And if it is a challenge, may you all outdo one another.