“Oh yeah, all right. Are you going to be in my dreams. Tonight?
And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make”–1969 by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
The very short, final tune of the medley on side two of “Abbey Road” by the Beatles features short solo contributions by each of the four members of the band. The second verse, a couplet, expresses a profound truism. We receive and willingly give in equal measure. Philosophers throughout the ages have pondered giving and receiving. Mostly, they have focused on the act of giving. It is often considered as more than a virtue, but as a phenomenon. They state generosity as emotional or spiritual equilibrium. To achieve such equilibrium, all one must do is to willingly give to others without expectation of payback or kudos–not even a tax write-off.
In most societies, the ability to give is considered to be a privilege. The act goes beyond mere duty, because generosity is a personal choice. If one acts upon that choice, one is fortunate indeed. Wealthy philanthropists worth their salt do not seek public recognition nor trophies in return for their gifts to charities and needy people. They quietly contribute, then resume going about their daily business and routine as a matter of course.
“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”–Eleanor Roosevelt
Today is “Give Something Away Day”, so this is an opportunity to give something meaningful to someone else and feel the joy. We expand our character and improve the life of another by such an act of generosity. What is striking is that generosity seems to be a primal at that is found in most mammals. I think of the gifts that are brought by cats to their owners. Primates famously interact and communicate pleasure by gift-giving. We humans can gauge the level of sincerity by how much thought and effort was placed into the gift by the gift-giver. In as much as we may proclaim our discomfort and disagreement with the concept of gift-giving, we do feel neglected if we are forgotten on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays. The gift may be an inexpensive token or a humble greeting card–we remember the gift and the spirit in which it was given. Likewise, when we thoughtfully give a loved one something meaningful, we see the joy and pleasure in the recipient. In spontaneous acts of generosity, these responses are natural and instinctive.
I fondly remember the kindness of friends and acquaintances throughout the years. The bowl of homegrown roma tomatoes from Julie, a casual acquaintance, are a vivid memory from a decade ago. The regular gifts of baby carrots from my great-uncle Ivan’s backyard garden were eaten decades ago, yet the memories remain as fresh as yesterday. A breakfast hosted by Don, the technical engineer, is a vivid memory from the time when a coworker and I were stranded at the Wayne, Nebraska radio station because of a severe blizzard. These and other gifts came from the heart.
Giving is a skill that can be developed like any other. We learn what people want and when it is appropriate to give it. When it is given lovingly and unconditionally, we reveal a tender part of ourselves. If we receive from others, our response is likewise a heartfelt talent that recognizes the generosity of the giver.
An important lesson that most of us eventually learn is that we cannot forever hold onto stuff, even gifts. We continually receive and give. Any riches we receive are exchanged for other things of value. Some of those things are not physical stuff. My great-aunt Emma was fond of quoting a wise-old saying her grandmother often told. “One can give without love, but one cannot love without giving.”
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Lao Tzu. “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”