Give ‘Til it Doesn’t Hurt
December 3, 2010
French Meadow Bakery
I just ate a tremendous plate of huevos. Well, most of it. I think they use a full carton of eggs per dish. Note to all who come to French Meadow Bakery and order the huevos: Split the order. Such nice spice in the chili, I can feel the blood in my cheeks. I’m looking out the front window at the uninspiring landscape of crusty, patchy snow and a flat white sky. I keep seeing the #4 bus go by with the advertisement for Second Harvest Heartland (which received four stars by Charity Navigator, by the way) that says, “Food or Medicine,” and then something like “Some people have to choose.” I think it would be great if more revenue was donated than was collected during holiday season. Warning, I’m about to proselytize (first time I’ve ever written that word, by the way. I had to look up how to spell it.): I was inspired by an article in this month’s “Whole Living” magazine (though Martha drives me nuts and I’d rather not support her empire) by Catherine Newman about called “The Greatest Gift,” which was basically about people who decided to change their lives and move their focus and energy toward charitable giving.
You may have seen fireworks exploding from a home in north Minneapolis the night I read it while taking a bath. I was ignited. It was one of those articles that alters your very chemistry for the rest of your life. Anyway, back to proselytizing. I think, if we have it, we should give it away. Paul gets worried when I talk like this. He doesn’t worry about me running up our credit cards on clothes–we’re more in danger of me giving our money away. Especially after reading the article.
In it, Newman mentions that the Hebrew word for “charity” is justice. I think that was the sentence that hit me with the most gusto. Justice. I sit here in this life I get to live, with my two healthy children and awesome husband and warm home and food and health and education and an inspiring job and clothes and multiple pairs of boots and nice snowpants, and on and on and on. And sometimes, possibly due to my upbringing or whatever, I fear for the other shoe that is going to come stomping down on all of my lucky blessings. Because that is what they are. This life could have been anything–I could have been born somewhere in Nepal and sold into sexual slavery in Calcutta because my family had nothing. I could have been a mother in Ethiopia that holds her starving child in her arms, helpless, surrounded by dry, cracked earth. I could have been born into poverty or abuse and be on the street with a cardboard sign saying, “Desperate. Need help.”
But no. I got this life. Where I get to sit in the French Meadow Bakery, listening to some jazzy music in the speakers, drinking my Fair Trade coffee, writing this on my laptop. I am lucky. Damn lucky. And yes, I’ve worked hard to get in this place. Yes, I’ve endured quite a bit of trauma in my lifetime. And still.
And if I can’t give to help someone else out, then I can give to help myself out. Research has been widely published and confirmed that one of the best anti-depressants is to give. Just give. Give a smile. Give a wave. Give patience. Give blood. Give your neighbor a loaf of bread. Withold judgment and give the benefit of the doubt. Give compassion. Give time. Give money without letting skepticism paralzye you (well, how much of this is really going to the people in need?). Don’t worry about it. Do your research if that makes you feel better about the whole thing and give.
This is a culture of greed and fear. When we open our hands and give, we also let go of the fear that we are clenching in our fists–the fear of not having enough, fear of losing what we have. Reminds me of a sentence I read yesterday somewhere:
“You will never have enough of what you don’t need.”
This is your food for thought. I didn’t know I was going to write this until that #4 bus drove by. My fingers dancing along my keyboard, this is where I find myself. Sometimes I like to think my hand is led in my writing. Maybe you were led here. Who knows. (But I do know that the Save the Children catalogue of gifts is very inspiring.)
Writing Exercise: Begin by taking five minutes to write down all that you are grateful for. Bring yourself and your mind to a state of gratitude where you can realize how abundant your life really is. Even the small things, like, “I am grateful for a hot shower.” Once you are there, feeling fat and happy, leave a little space and write in big huge letters, “How can I give?” And let your pen do the talking. Do you have a talent that you can share with others in your local community center once a week? Do you have clothes in your closet, even the expensive ones that you never wear, that you can bag up and bring to the ARC? Do you have a compliment to give but are too shy to give it? Give it anyway. Do you have blood? Give it. Do you have a friend that needs someone to listen? Give her or him your ear. There is no greater reward than looking back on a life where you have shined your precious light into the darkness. Simply luminous.
Figure out what is meaningful to you and find a way to give. It feels so energizing, so wonderful, and so very just. Give, give, give. Give until you grow wings and levitate above your lucky self. Give ’til it doesn’t hurt.