Authentic Giving

Chris - Madison, Wisconsin
Entered on December 31, 2008

Authentic Giving…Privileged Giving

I BELIEVE IN GIVING. My wife and I recently saw the movie, “Seven Pounds” – a story about giving. Neither of us knew much about it before we went, but I read something that said it’s about a guy down on his luck who dedicates his life to helping others. In light of recent world events, we thought this would be a good one to help bring us back into some optimism and hope as our world seems to be collapsing around us.

It definitely delivered. I spent the rest of the evening and much of the night thinking about the deeper messages of that movie. Are we making the most of this one life we are given? Are we using our life to help others, or just to make the most of it for ourselves? Is there a difference?

In the spirit of Christmas, Will Smith’s character literally gave his life to save others – bone marrow, eyes, liver, heart…and finally…his money. Very often, when we think about giving, we think of money. We also give “stuff” – material properties – toys, household goods, jewelry…eventually, we may get to the point of giving our time and personal energy. It’s not as common, however, for people to go to the extreme of literally giving of their body and life to save others as was portrayed in the movie.

I think that is true of our family – we have gotten to the place of giving money and material goods and do less giving of our time and energy. Perhaps that’s the privilege of making a healthy salary and living rather simply – we have money to give when others do not, so it’s a good thing to do…right?

No doubt it is helpful – but are there other things – non-material things – that would mean more to the recipient?

Would a homeless family benefit more from me giving them $100, a meal, and warm clothing, or would they benefit more from our family spending a few hours with them and getting to know them on a humane and spiritual level?

Today, they may enjoy a homecooked meal, warm clothing, and some money. In fact, it may be just what gets them through another few days. But what happens after that? Has it done anything for their soul? Spirit? Outlook on the future? Unlikely – next week, they’ll need another $100 and more meals. Their warm clothes will be worn out next year.

Acts of humanitarian connections can last a lifetime…they can also be quickly erased. How many people walk past that family, avoiding eye contact, trying to ignore them? Their personal discomfort likely caused by their privileged ability to just walk on by…rendering the family invisible…as if they do not exist…have no place in my world.

Experiences of being rendered insignificant also last a lifetime. Perhaps the meal, money, and clothing could bring them one fewer day on the street where they feel invisible and unwelcomed in our world.

I believe in giving – of your authentic self – in whatever meaning that holds for you. If giving comes from the heart, you can’t go wrong.