The Power and Joy of Giving
by Azim JamalW hen we stop giving, we stop receiving. If we have clenched fists, we cannot receive. The moment we open our fists and give, we are also able to receive. This is how the laws of the universe and nature work. In essence, the concepts of rich and poor describe not how much or how little we have, but rather how much or how little we give of ourselves.
There are many ways to give – we can give our time, thoughts, wealth, and guidance. Similarly, there are many levels of giving. Some give because they want recognition or medals or some form of return; it is better to give even with an ulterior motive than not to give at all. However, the highest form of giving is selfless and unconditional. Unconditional giving is when we give without any thought of reward, return, or recognition. It is far different from the bartering concept of giving – you scratch my back and I scratch yours – that exists in the material world today.
The best symbol of unconditional giving is that of a flower which gives its perfume, unasked, to every passerby. Even when you crush a flower, it still leaves its perfume behind. “Forgiveness is the perfume the flower gives to the hand that crushes it.”
There is a Sufi story about a poor, starving man who approached a saint and asked him, what is my destiny. The saint replied that he did not know the answer but that he would pray to find out. The next day, the saint told the poor man that there was only a bag of rice in his destiny. The man pleaded with the saint to request God to give him his bag of rice as soon as possible as he was starving to death. The saint prayed for his request. The next morning, when the poor man woke up, he found a bag of rice sitting outside his doorstep. Thanking his luck, he cooked the whole bag of rice and called his neighbor and friend to share the rice with him. By dusk, the rice was finished.
The next morning, the poor man found two bags of rice outside his doorstep. He continued his ritual by cooking all the rice and inviting more friends and neighbors, and together they ate the rice. By dusk, the rice was finished. The next morning, when he woke up, he found three bags of rice at his doorstep. When the saint asked God why the poor man was getting so many bags of rice instead of the one He had predicted, God told him that, because of the poor man’s generosity in his poverty, he had changed and recreated his destiny.
Giving is a powerful way of creating abundance in our lives, but only when we give freely and unconditionally. We also invariably get back what we give. Harvey and Azim have found that in their journey of writing “The Power of Giving”, as well as in their work.
Harvey’s office participated a whole night walk for charity. Even though the staff spent a lot of work time and energy preparing for the walk, the benefit in team work and unity far outweighed the investment of time.
While I was in Pakistan working with Afghan refugees, I noticed that despite their plight, they would always receive a guest in their home with the best food or offering they had available. It was quite remarkable to see their giving natures. It taught me that we don’t need wealth to give, we only need a heart. When our hearts are open to giving, abundance in one form or another must surely follow. It is not how much we give that matters, it is the thought. Just because we cannot help the whole world, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still try to help whomever we can.
Every minute is an opportunity to give, so let us make sure our positive influence is influencing whoever crosses our path for the better – be it through a smile, a compliment, or a lending hand. There are many, many ways of giving, none less important or valuable than another. It is our willingness, openness, and attitude in giving that truly matter. The more of ourselves we share, the more of ourselves we find. When we help others, we open up space for help to come to us. Happiness is like a shadow; the more we follow it, the more it will elude us. If instead we work toward giving happiness to others, happiness, like the shadow, will follow us.
The beautiful prayer of St. Francis supports the joy of giving:
“…O Divine Master, grant I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive.”