I was chatting with a friend over lunch today, and I had one of those moments where my mouth outran my brain, and something profound and almost wise fell out! It was shocking to me, about an hour later, as I digested the conversation, that I had actually offered some pretty deep and insightful commentary on the human race.
You see, my friend Stephanie, wanted me to blog about the efforts of my organization This Little Light, to provide volunteer opportunities to families with young children and to help parents cultivate a spirit of giving in their children. Stephanie is not the first person who has asked me to write about this topic, but every time I am asked I struggle with the idea – I mean really, is it that hard to understand how you teach a kid to give?! You teach them to give the same way you teach them to crap on the toilet – by constant and consistent repetition. You start them young, you repeat yourself often, you allow them to observe and emulate you and in time they take over crapping by themselves. It’s quite simple.
But in discussing the simplicity that seems so lost on some people, I said the following, “You know, I have learned that people fall in to one of two categories: Those who share from their abundance and those who give from their need.” These are the words that stopped me later – that made me really ponder what I was actually saying. The heart of this matter is this: there is a difference between giving and sharing. And the world is full of people who are committed to sharing, but not a whole lot of people who are committed to giving.
You see, any time I rally my friends and family around a “cause” (and there are many, folks) I find that people approach the subject in one of two ways. They either share from their comfort or give from their own need. Either gift is equally important, equally as valued and equally as beautiful – they are just different, and they come from different places in our souls.
I am a crusader in my heart, and I am a firm believer that we see need because we are meant to fill need. I believe we see holes that others look past because it’s our job to fill those holes. If we can identify a problem, it is because somewhere we possess, however deep inside us, the solution to that problem. We are created the way we are because of why we are.
We react to the identification of need in one of two ways: sharing or giving.
The definition of sharing is to give a portion of (something) to another or others.
The definition of giving is to freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone); hand over to.
Sharing allows something of the gift to remain with the giver. Giving transfers the possession completely. Do you see that difference? Because there is a huge difference and these two situations require radically different heart attitudes.
You see, I was raised by a need-based-giver. My Mother, to this day, is one of the most thoughtful, tireless ‘givers’ I have ever known. Oh, she shares from time to time, but I have often seen my Mother go without so that someone else could have. This was just the accepted language of our home, actually. You shared as the situation dictated, but by god, you gave when called upon. I learned this young and I have taught it to my son young. It’s second nature to me. And now there is a steady ebb and flow of both giving and sharing. I am easily and clearly able to distinguish between:
“You need some food?! Oh, I have extra food. Here take the food I am not using!”
“You need some food?! I can see you need it more than me. Please take my food and I can wait a bit longer to be fed.”
To look at another human being and say, “I am going to give what I have that you need and I will no longer have that” is very different than saying, “I am going to share some of what I have with you and then we can both have it!”
So, I pose to you this question: when was the last time you actually gave and not just shared? When was the last time that your spouse or your child witnessed you actually giving? When was the last time you had your child or spouse participate with you in actually giving, not just sharing?
Now, I am not suggesting some grandiose gesture of selling all that you have and walking the harsh streets of Real Life barefoot, but I want you to think about the last time that you didn’t just “share” some money with a cause, but you actually rolled up your sleeves and gave of yourself (your time, your energy, your talents) for that cause?
Life is full of opportunities to both give and share. Life is also full of opportunities where we can choose between giving or sharing.
So here’s my challenge: the next time Life reveals to you a need in someone else, don’t just share, but give. Leave the entire gift on the table – keep nothing for yourself. Because I promise, when you leave with empty arms because you gave and not just shared, you leave more room for your next need to be filled, more space for blessings in return. And Life has a really awesome way of paying back to us what we give out.
Editor’s note: Dee’s group, This Little Light, is for parents and educators dedicated to helping children develop social responsibility, caring and generous natures and the belief that it truly is better to give than to receive. Join them for 40 Days of Giving back, where instead of giving something up for Lent, they plan daily exercises in giving for their families to participate in. They will begin on February 18th.