Giving is Kindness and Applied Gratitude
Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. ~ Lao Tzu
We’re well into the month of November, truly one of my favorite months for a lot of reasons. I typically love the weather in both October and November, cool crisp sunny days. The leaves have or are changing depending on where you live. This is the time of year I like being outside best. The weather is bracing, the air is clear and crisp, there are no bugs, very few snakes and the landscape changes from green, to colors, to a kind of starkness that seems to just be a pause waiting for a blanket of snow. As I discussed in my post last week, the only thing I don’t like is the short days and long, cold dark nights but Thanksgiving and football season balance that out.
The Holiday Season
As we enter what most people refer to the holiday season, Halloween, the Day of the Dead, Thanksgiving and then Christmas humanity does briefly show it’s better side. In addition to all of the celebrating of self and family that happens this time of year, there is also a greater focus on giving and gratitude. November seems to have culturally become the time of year where people think about and express gratitude. You may see friends on Facebook doing gratitude challenges, posting and expressing what they are thankful for each day in November. I think this is great, and what I really hope for is people to not just express this gratitude in one month, but every day. Particularly for most of us living in the United States, even during a rising pandemic, we are incredibly lucky and blessed to be where we are living and to have the opportunities we have in this country.
Showing gratitude for what we have is not just something that’s a nice thing to do, it actually helps you be a happier person. It also obviously helps out the recipient of the giving. I think, particularly during a pandemic and economic struggle, people feel that since they don’t have money to donate that they cannot give. So tonight I want to talk about giving, not just as a form of kindness which it certainly is, but as a type of applied gratitude.
Giving as applied gratitude
Personally I believe that while expressing gratitude is great, the way we can actively apply that gratitude is by giving of ourselves in some way. I don’t think it matters how you apply that gratitude, it’s just important that you do. So, although it gets criticized, some people give by writing a set of checks every year to charities. While that may seem materialistic and de-personalized, I won’t criticize it. That money donated is money that might have been applied to vacations, gifts or even life’s comforts. So while it may seem impersonal, it is still giving to others. Additionally, some people have made significant commitments to giving, and others do it as a religious commitment giving 10% or more of their income each year. Others give a large amount of their time, I think we all have that friend who is constantly volunteering their time to others, charity events, food drives, or to organizations and causes. Others give through their activism trying to change political systems to help others. Myself, I’m not a joiner, not very social. Even for a good cause going out and having to interact with a lot of other people is not something that I enjoy doing. There are some exceptions for sure, beach clean ups or charity walking events. But generally, I prefer to be less regulated and regimented with my giving and take a more random approach.
Random Acts of Kindness
To give you a little idea of what I mean let me give you a few examples. Not as a way to brag about what I do, but to show you possibly a way you can extend your giving year round and perhaps in some small but impactful ways. I’m someone who is fortunate to finally in my life to be financially stable with some additional disposable income. This allows me to not only satisfy my desire and near addiction for travel and new experiences but still retain some income for giving. While I do have some things that I personally support on a regular basis, I donate regularly to one of my old colleges and to some scholarship funds, I prefer to do my giving one to one and when opportunities present themselves.
One place a do a lot of my giving is checkout lines. I especially like doing this at whatever college I’m currently working at. What I will often do, is while in line at the cafeteria, let the cashier know that I’m paying for the student in line in front of or behind me. I especially will jump in if I see a student digging for change, or suddenly realizing they don’t have the cash they thought they had. I do the same at the grocery store if someone in front of me runs short. I recently saw something on Social Media that I love. The suggestion was if something is on offer, buy one get one free, get both. Even if you don’t need it, and as a single person I’m often in that situation and just don’t get the second item. But get the second item and just give it to that person behind you in line who is obviously buying for a large family or someone who looks like they might be pinching pennies a bit. Just say hey, I got this item for free and it’s too much for me, could you use it? So there are a lot of opportunities to give.
Yesterday, while standing in line, the woman in front of me was trying to negotiate a purchase with a card and some sort of voucher that just seemed dicey. The cashier was kind but couldn’t accept this form of payment, the person, wearing a brace and carrying two bags of possessions mentioned they hadn’t eaten that day. So I stepped up and paid the $7.50 they owed. They were very appreciative and when I found them outside the store afterward I dropped them another $10 to get a meal. This isn’t a significant amount of money, but it’s money given in that moment of desperation that I unfortunately know too well. Psychologically, for me, that knot in the gut moment of knowing you don’t have money you need, particularly if it’s money to buy food, is terribly stressful, it’s a bit of a trigger for me emotionally. So to be able to help someone relieve a little bit of that, in the moment that it is happening, is not only kind but also a bit selfish. It also helps me by making me feel good about being able to help, which in turn makes me a little bit happier.
It’s not hard to find these opportunities, they pop up quite frequently if you pay attention. And they are not only monetary in nature. They can include helping someone carry something, stopping to help someone with directions or find something in a store. Letting someone go ahead of you in a line. The thing is, the more you pay attention, the more you practice these little acts, the more you see these opportunities to practice giving and kindness and act on them, the better you’ll feel about yourself. This is a way to take the gratitude you possess about what you have, and actively apply it by giving and being kind. And it will lead to happier days for everyone my friends. ~ Rev Kane