I believe in giving something back. As noble and selfless as that sounds, I don’t believe it because of how much I have or how much I’ve been blessed. I simply believe it because my family always has.
On both sides of my family, long lines of givers stretch off into the dim past. From my limited perspective, two of them stand out as epitomes of how to give back: both of my grandmothers. They gave in very different ways, but the method matters less than the giving itself.
Grandma Marion was a quite and committed giver. For me, many of the ways she contributed to the world didn’t fully come to light until after she passed away. As my family and I reflected on who we knew her to be, her giving nature emerged in stories: sewing classes she taught, her pioneering work to create Braille textbooks and topographical maps for blind school children, and her strong church involvement. Most of all, she gave a legacy: a legacy of life, love, and a strong and simple faith.
Grandma Weiss, who goes simply by “W”, gives back in a much more visible way. Her dining room table is always covered with multiple stacks of political books with titles such as When Character Was King: the Story of Ronald Reagan and Godless: The Church of Liberalism. Filling in the spaces around these books are piles of return envelopes from the myriad of organizations and causes she financially supports. When she’s not attending a Republican meeting, chances are she’s on her way to or from a Sunday school or church event.
I grew up seeing both my grandmothers taking their blessings, turning around, and giving them back out to other people. I think it is in our blood: my relatives are nurses, missionaries, prayer ministers, pastors, educators, and Sunday school teachers. They adopt people, officially and unofficially. Half, if not more, of the people that come to our holiday meals are not really my relatives. I didn’t know that one of my aunts wasn’t really my aunt until I was in junior high. My family loves to take people under its wing, to give them a home and a place to be loved. Beyond this, they give their talents to the church, to their community, and to politics.
This trait has become a part of me, in my genes, an intrinsic way I’ve been shaped to live. Every once in a while, I realize that I’ve “adopted” someone who needs help, I’ve devoted a large chunk of time to teaching something to someone who doesn’t understand it, and I actually care about the latest presidential polls. This weekend, my aunt gave me something, and I have been feeling guilty all week about not writing her a thank-you note.
It sounds funny, but in principle, when you get something, you give something back. Why? To better the world around you and to love people. This is why my grandmothers, my family, and I believe in giving something back.
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