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The Experience That Changed How I Thought About Giving Comments

Being able to accept others’ generosity has increased my own.

  • By Cynthia Ramnarace
  • December 23, 2013

Giving doesn’t have to mean cash. One of the greatest gifts we were given after Sandy hit was the offer of a bed to sleep in. For six weeks our house was completely unlivable, and had it not been for cousins opening their home to us, that time would have been much more difficult. We would have had to take the kids out of school and stay with my parents or try to find a local hotel to live in. Having the warm embrace of someone’s home, someone to cook for us and reassure us, someone to distract the kids when my husband and I had to have the long, hard conversations that took over our time together -- that was worth more than any amount of money.

Accepting other’s generosity is not easy. As cash was handed to us, gift cards mailed, bags of clothes brought to us, I thought of my great-grandmother who, even during the Depression when her children were forced to split a single can of beans, refused to take any “charity.” She was too proud to accept the help of others, even if that meant her children went to bed hungry. Did that mean I had no pride? I thought about this a lot. But then I realized something I wish my great-grandmother knew: When you let others do for you, you give them the opportunity for grace in their lives.

I believe this because I have lived it. I truly believe the more you give out to the world, the more you get back. There was the time, right out of college, when I spent $70 (an enormous amount to me then) to buy Christmas gifts for a family in need. Several days later, and completely unexpectedly, I received a holiday bonus from my boss of $700. Then there was the time a couple of years ago, when the economy was in crisis and so was my business, that I decided to cut back on charitable giving in order to tighten our budget. Less money was going out in terms of giving, but I instantly noticed that my sales dried up even further. Then, the very week that I decided to amp up my giving again, a flurry of new assignments came in.

Coincidences? Maybe. Karma? Possibly. The answer doesn’t really matter. What matters is that giving and receiving have equal value. When you give, it’s about more than just a check. It’s hope when hope has been hard to find. Love and comfort when both have felt far from reach. A reprieve from the anxiety that stirs the heart and makes sleep a stranger.

And when you receive, you learn that you are part of a larger network of people. You become keenly aware that it is much better to be part of a community, accepting the help of many, than to try and forge a way alone.

So give when you can. Receive when you must. And be grateful for both.

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