I believe in giving and receiving, it is my golden rule of life. Giving of oneself and receiving in kind are vital nourishment for a life of learning and growth. Philanthropy and volunteerism provide for the disadvantaged, but only skim the surface. Benevolence is much more than dollars and time, the true treasure lies in enthusiasm about everything around me.
Growing up I didn’t account for how early life experiences shaped my golden rule. I didn’t know my golden rule while sitting on my grandfather’s workbench as a small boy, him cracking walnuts and me happily eating as many as his tired hands would supply. Not even as a young adult, sitting for hours on my bedroom floor listening to a diversity of interests: classical, rap, the speeches of Malcolm X, rock and roll. I learned lessons of what to do, and what not to do, both equally valuable. What I know now is I was being taught to appreciate all walks of life and how I could learn from each.
My first explicit understanding of giving and receiving came when I met my wife in college. A severe childhood softened by wonderful mentors, she parlayed her upbringing into a passion for making a difference in the lives of others. It was humbling contrast to my self-absorbed mentality. I learned from her the power of the unconditional gifts I could give and receive.
Today I rarely dismiss a casual exchange of pleasantries with the parking lot attendant at football games or hearing the stories of the man shining shoes in the airport. Each is an opportunity to give and receive, to learn and grow. As expected, I have learned from family members, friends, and coworkers. But I have also learned from waitresses, winemakers, flight attendants, and plenty from complete strangers. At times, distractions and pressures hurry me along and I don’t take advantage of all I should, despite knowing the value of stopping to smell those proverbial roses.
I have received many lessons. Among them learning that marriage is hard, but even more so it is rewarding. Among them learning you get a better shoe shine if you sit up and point your toes in slightly. Among them learning that a father of three who worked in a factory for 37 years knows plenty more than my Masters education will ever teach me. I hope to be fortunate enough to continue receiving valuable gifts for many years. We all have this same opportunity.
I believe in giving and receiving. The gifts I receive I will reciprocate through the honest enthusiasm I have for listening to others and their chronicles. I sometimes learn about people, places, and things. I always learn about myself. I hope to sow the seeds of the collective wisdom of my experiences for others to harvest. Giving and receiving, it is my golden rule of life.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.