This I Believe

Paula - Kirksville, Missouri
Entered on October 12, 2007

I believe in the gift of giving — being able to give to. Having the means to give doesn’t always require money. Even when we have no money, I believe there is still much to give: empathy and a broad shoulder for someone in distress; care for an ill or a disabled person, be it a stranger or a loved one; material goods that have accumulated over the years—good “stuff” that is hidden away instead of being used by somebody who needs it; food that won’t be used because we don’t really like it even if it is full of vitamins and antioxidants. Of course, money is always welcome, too.

I believe that the habit of giving is ingrained in us from birth — maybe even earlier! Watching my mother give, over and over, was a good habit to catch. One incident in my helped me realize, in a powerful way, how the gifts we give last far longer than we imagine.

When I was a young child, back in the 1940s, each December two little girls about the same age as me came around the neighborhood selling their handmade wood fiber flowers. Each year my mother would welcome the girls, examine their flowers, exclaim how beautiful they were, and ask, “Could I just buy all of them?”

The girls were happy to sell all of them at once, and my mother then had small gifts to give away, and my sister and I had flowers to wear in our hair.

Years later, when I was a stay-at-home, I often had coffee with my friend Diana. One day she brought a birthday cake. She said, “I just realized that today I am 30 years old, I have a wonderful family and a nice home — and I no longer have to be ashamed that my mother was a prostitute!” Then she began to tell me how she and her sister made wood fiber flowers to sell each winter, because their own mother never had any money to give them. She began to tell the story about one lady who always bought all their flowers. We came to realize the connection we had had even then. Diana said they always loved coming to our house because not only did my mother buy all their flowers, but she gave them what she called “a tip,” which was quite substantial for them.

What a powerful story in my life: gratitude for something my mother had done 20 years earlier. By watching my parents “do favors” for people in need for as long as I could remember, I had “caught” the habit.

This is the season that some plan their charitable gifts for next year It’s nice to do that. But it’s a lot more fun to see needs arise that nobody was expecting, and to find that we are able to give ourselves and our goods to help.

I believe in the power of giving!