Does it seem like in recent months more and more people are asking you to share with them your possessions or your money? Does your mail box seem to be overloaded with requests from non-profits, charitable organization and political parties? Do you notice an increase in the number of people standing with their hand out in front of the super market and at stop signs? To give or not to give, that is the question.
A lot of people and organization these days are having a tough time making ends meet; churches, temples, mosques and gurdwaras, are no exceptions. I don’t know of any religion that doesn’t encourage the practice of giving. It’s one of Buddhism’s Five Precepts. Usually these are stated in the negative: no killing, no lying, no drugs or alcohol, no improper sex and no stealing, But stated in the positive they are: encouraging life, speaking the truth, consuming nourishing food and drink, treating everyone with respect, and giving generously. But who is really the giver and who is the getter?
In Buddhism, it is the giver who gets, as well as the receiver. In the Theravada Buddhist countries of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Sri Lanka, where monks go out begging for food each morning, the monks don’t thank those who fill their bowls. Instead, it is the giver of the food who thanks the monk for the privilege and opportunity to practice the precept of giving. Of course the monk is the recipient of the food, but the giver of the food experiences the joy of giving it, as well as a feeling of connectedness, even oneness with the getter.
What and how one gives merits consideration. Giving something you don’t want or need is not really an act of charity; it is more an act of ego gratification, a deceptive act allowing one to pat oneself on the back when a kick in the butt would be more appropriate – as well as maybe more beneficial. If you truly want to feel good about yourself, try giving something you love or need, something that when you no longer have it you feel like you’ve lost something like a favorite ring or earring. That puts thing in proper perspective. You don’t have to give ’til it hurts, only ’til it smarts a little. You’ll see how smarting is really smart; and it’s followed by the high of feeling good about yourself.
Don’t be concerned with what happens to your gift after you’ve given it. The dollar you give the guy at the stop sign may help him buy a bottle of something other than milk, but it also could be spent on an apple or a hot dog. Don’t judge him. Don’t even judge yourself. Instead, analyze. He needs, you can help. He gets and so do you. It’s a win-win situation.
What we give isn’t really ours anyway. It’s just on loan to us; we can’t take it with us when we leave this place. I doubt we’d even want to. How many things do you still have that were so important or precious to you when you were in kindergarten or when you were a teenager? For that matter, how about that thing you bought last month that you just couldn’t live without? Is it still as essential as you thought it was or are you now wondering why you ever bought it in the first place? Give it away. You don’t need it or want it anymore. But give yourself something, too. Not a back pat, but a butt kick to wake you up to reality. Although there’s not much generosity in the gesture, it’s still in the category of giving. And that’s not all bad.