Photo by Helena Yankovska on Unsplash
This week in the U.S., we celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday. While its origins date back to 1621, it wasn’t until 1941 when the fourth Thursday of November became its permanent home on the calendar. To date, there are about 17 countries that celebrate Thanksgiving – many with different dates and different reasons.
Giving thanks needs no holiday, but at least it’s a reminder for us all to be thankful. We also get reminders from big business and the retail industry telling us a good way to show our thanks is through buying plenty of their merchandise. They have all but kidnapped this particular time of year with “Black Friday and Cyber Monday” promotions imploring us to repress and conquer our lack of thankfulness by showering plenty of gifts on those whom we should have been more thankful.
The one thing, however, big business can never usurp from this day is the spirit behind its celebration. Likewise, we should learn to be thankful more than just one day a year. Imagine the impact it would create if everyone were to begin the day with a recognition of being thankful!
Giving thanks is a powerful human expression and emotion. When done with a sincere heart, it creates a calm and warming feeling within, and numerous studies have been developed to demonstrate why thankfulness invokes these exceptionally positive outcomes. Why would we ever choose to begin the morning in any other way?
Which is better
There is a saying we’ve all heard and that is, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Are these words simply a clever motto or do they reveal a truth? Admittedly, in my teens and young adult years, there were times when I questioned this age-old adage. It wasn’t that I didn’t like doing things for others or expected something in return, but how can not having something bring you more than giving away something? How does taking away from what you have end up creating more?
For decades I restrained my “generosity” and on several occasions convinced myself I did not have any discretionary income to participate in the spirit of giving. Other times when I forced myself to give, a sour expression on my face conveyed the lack of a charitable spirit behind it. While my attitude was inconsistent with this popular expression, had anyone asked me my opinion about it, I would have adamantly agreed that it was always better to give than to receive.
Thankfully, that would change. I had hired a business coach and one day as our session was ending, she told me something I will never forget. “The Universe has no judgement,” she began. “It’s like a mirror and whatever you put out into the world it will reflect back onto you.” For some reason, the way she expressed it really hit home with me and my attitude about giving began to evolve.
“The Universe is a mirror” meant my unwillingness to give was a reflection of me. It had nothing to do with whether I had anything but was I willing to give it? This prompted me to go out of my way to give more than I had ever given before. Also, there was no expectation to receive anything in return but merely showing the Universe I could be a kind and giving person. It didn’t take long to notice a difference in me and my financial situation.
Inexplicably, my bank account began to grow and there was more money in my wallet; all without any change in my job or lifestyle to explain it. There was no reason for it to happen, but it did. I did not understand why, nor did I care to know. It just did.
More profoundly, it changed who I was. I became more caring and had more kindness. It was a growth in character; the financial gain was inconsequential. None of my behavior was intended to benefit me nor to expect better treatment from others.
“A gift from the heart is never given with an expectation of what it will receive in return.”
It is fun to receive gifts or other surprises. It’s nice to know someone is thinking about you, and this time of year marks the beginning of a lot of gift giving and exchanging. Some of us have gift exchanging at work or with families, and there is an expectation that most everyone will receive something.
However, when a gift is given with no anticipation or expectancy of getting anything in return, this is the true art of giving. No sowing and reaping. No karma. The reward is solely in the intrinsic value of the act. It’s done as if it were an act of duty or a gesture of kindness. It’s what we would expect of ourselves and would feel guilty if we did anything less.
Better still is giving anonymously. This is perhaps the highest form of giving. It not only raises the spirit of the other person, but it helps restore their hope and faith in humankind. It empowers them to give when the opportunity arises to help others in need.
It can be frustrating to give and not have the person receiving it be grateful or even acknowledge your gift. But that would be allowing someone else to dictate our kindness and thoughtfulness. Although it can be tempting to want to receive a little credit, do your best to not think this way. Their actions are not a reflection of your generosity, and it is a test of inner strength to remain calm in this kind of adversity.
It takes effort and resolve to become a true giver, but there is no doubt this world would be a much better place if it were filled with giving people. As the Holiday Season fast approaches, see how many you can help with no expectations of anything other than truly making someone smile.
My thanks to Helena Yankovska on Unsplash for the beautiful photo and I look forward to your comments.