Giving and getting

For it is in giving that we receive.
St. Francis of Assisi
c. 1181 -1226

When I was a young child, I wasn’t particularly fond of returning to school after the holidays — though not for the reason you might think. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like school as the fact that all my friends asked the same question: “What did you get for Christmas?”

I’d have to recite the items I got and then ask them what they’d received. And naturally, each of us made a mental note of who got more. We judged ourselves on how much we got, and I rarely got more than my friends.

This isn’t a game limited to children. Plenty of adults still play the game; they’re just more subtle about it. Our society puts way too much emphasis on getting rather than giving.

You might wonder what’s wrong with getting. Nothing, as long as it’s kept in perspective. But the focus on getting can become addictive, needing constant reinforcement through additional getting to maintain the feeling of satisfaction. And once an unhealthy focus develops, each new gift tends to bring less enjoyment than the one before. It becomes a never-ending hunger, requiring more and bigger gifts to keep it in check.

What’s the lesson here? It’s simple: St. Francis was right. Giving from the heart brings us greater satisfaction than getting things. And the satisfaction of giving is long-term, while the joy of receiving things is fleeting.

As we approach this holiday season, focus more on giving than getting. And focus on giving things that can’t be purchased. Give of your time, attention, and understanding. In five to ten years, you’ll have forgotten most of the material gifts you exchange this year. Put your emphasis on more important things.

Find a way to touch someone’s life, to make their life easier or more meaningful. That memory will last and give you more satisfaction than a material gift ever could.

It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more that is poor.
Seneca
c. 4 BC – AD 65

Copyright © 2015 John Chancellor

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