Yesterday I talked about the need to schedule fun – to consciously carve out space for something that we often feel we don’t have time for.
Today I want to address something similar: giving.
First, a little story.
One day when I was around ten years old, and we had just gotten our monthly welfare check, my mom told me she was going to take me to Woolworth’s for a banana split, and after that to the discount Brooklyn department store May’s, to buy some clothes.
Going to Woolworth’s for a banana split was always super-exciting, because Woolworth’s cafeteria had these balloons floating above the counter; when you ordered a banana split, the cashier would pop one – inside was a card that said how much you’d have to pay for the banana split, ranging from one cent to 59 cents. It was the closest a little kid like me came to playing the slots in Vegas!
Anyway, I had my banana split (forgot how much we paid for it) and we walked over to May’s. Standing outside of the store was a homeless man holding out a hat.
As we approached him, I watched breathlessly as my mom dropped one of our precious welfare dollars into the man’s hat.
As I walked by him, I reached into the hat and took the dollar out.
“Put that back!” my mom said.
“But we need this,” I said.
“He needs it, too,” my mom said. “When someone asks for help, it’s not for us to judge. That’s for someone else. We should help as many people as we can, as often as we can.”
I didn’t fully understand it at the time – we really did need that money! But I get it now. My mom understood something very deep.
Giving is like having fun, in that it’s an inelastic part of living well and feeling good about yourself.
You can’t wait until you have “enough” money (or other things) to start giving to others.
In fact, when you're feeling strapped might be the most important time to remember why giving is good for you.
Because it’s true what they say: Tis better to give than to receive.
Aside from often being “the right thing to do,” giving makes us feel good about ourselves, which helps us become our best selves.
Giving is like eating and sleeping. It’s not something we should do when we can. It’s something we must do.
Think about everything you receive from others in one day. That might give you an idea of how necessary giving is in one form or another.
Now think about what you can give back. Granted, it might not be “much,” but you have something you can give.
Whether it’s your time, or your ear, or food, or money, or whatever, give something to somebody in need when you’re done reading this post.
Then tomorrow, and the next day, and the next...
Make giving a consistent part of your life. "Budget" it in there.
Or, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers sing: Give it away now!
My mom would promise: you’ll be glad you did.
I worked in a kitchen when I was growing up, 80-90 hours a week, at Camp Sussex. There’s a lot of opportunities like this. Is that work nothing?