I have been thinking a lot about giving lately. About what it means to give to someone. To help them, to donate your time / money / effort. What does it meant to give. What sparked this chain of thought off, is the Harrison story.
My sister told me that the happy clappers have this thing they all aspire to be: cheerful givers. People who give happily, freely and without the expectation of any reward. I think that is what it means. I don’t like to question these things too deeply or else I might start thinking HC thoughts and the next thing you know I will have to give up swearing and drinking. And we can’t have that. However, I did tell my sister when it comes to putting out, I am clearly not a ‘cheerful giver’.
Then I read that book that just about everyone has read: “How to win friends and influence people” and in the book he speaks about giving. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but the underlying message really hit home to me. He said that every single thing we do, no matter how altruistic it appears to be, we do because there is something in it for us. We get something out of it, or else we wouldn’t do it.
What does it mean to give? Why do we give? How should we give? And what should we expect in return.
At the one end of the scale, there are those people who ‘give’ with the expectation of something in return. I will give you this if you give me that. Perhaps this is less about giving and more about bartering.
Then, we get those who give without expecting anything material in return. I donate this to you. Freely. Look, I am a cheerful giver. Yet, there is still an expectation of some sorts. Gratitude, recognition. Acknowledgement. There is a barter of some sorts. They gave, they get something in return.
Then at the other end of the scale are those who donate totally anonymously. Without any reward, recognition or acknowledgement, and without any expectation thereof. Some would argue that this is true ‘giving’. Although the chap who wrote ‘How to Friends’ would argue that even these people give with the expectation of some sort of intrinsic reward, a sense of fulfilment or whatever.
All this thinking about giving reminded me of a short piece I read on a blog ('This Woman's Work' by Dawn), a few years back. It was a story about giving and about gratitude, about how giving with the expectation of gratitude isn’t really giving at all. It had such a powerful impact on me at the time, it was a real ‘ah ha’ moment. Go read it here, it’s a short piece but very powerfully written.
Taking all of this into account, I try my best to be a cheerful giver. To give because it is my duty as part of the human race to give. To give without the expectation of reward or recognition. To give freely, without the expectation of gratitude. To give because it is my duty to give.
And so we get to Harrison. I know that for many of you, the Harrison story feels like unfinished business. It was such a divine story – all of you who gave so generously, all the excitement. And then there was nothing. No real follow up except to say that I had given him the money.
And I felt bad about that for a while. I
felt like I had cheated you somehow. Where was the cheer and the excitement. Where was the gratitude that would have made us feel good about
Well, let me assure you, he was very very grateful, and a little embarrassed when I gave him the money. I could see he felt inadequate in terms of expressing how grateful he was. I felt a real pang for him in that moment. He is such a dignified, proud man. I somehow just couldn’t write about it without disrespecting his dignity. It’s difficult to explain.
It was in that moment that I was reminded about the story of the cheerful giver. And about the story of the blogger handing out tampons. And I decided that I would wait a while before I asked him how he was getting on. I would wait until he was ready to speak to me.
And on Saturday he was! He told me that he has started building the ceiling (thank goodness, because it is really cold here now) and that the toilet is next. I told him that the friends in the computer are dying to know how he has been doing, and would he mind doing a little interview for me and he said cool. So my dear friend, here is Harrison in the flesh.
Thanks for being cheerful givers, and for donating so generously. Even though you didn’t expect anything in return, know that your generosity has made a difference in Harrison and his family’s life. So, thank you. From Harrison and from me.