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Friday, November 5, 2010

Giving and Receiving

Why is it seemingly easier for most of us to give, than to receive? Some of us are shy and humble, and don't like attention. Some don't feel worthy. Others feel it will upset the balance of power to be  "indebted" to someone for some kindness they may have shown you. Let me offer another perspective.

It is scientifically proven that giving makes you feel good. It takes your mind off things that may trouble you. It builds self-esteem and confidence. There is tremendous satisfaction in filling a need someone can't provide for herself.

Even if you are uncomfortable taking anything, realize that you are depriving someone of the pleasure of giving. Songwriter Jon Gailmor once said, "There is no pain like powerlessness." I knew exactly what he meant when so many years later, I felt powerless to save my husband's life when he was dying of cancer. The only thing I could hold onto, was to give whatever he would take, so I didn't feel so helpless.

The gift you receive keeps on circulating, and even grows. While you may not reciprocate the gift, the kindness will be banked by the universe and available when you need it. Or maybe it will just be passed on to someone else who needs it more than you do.

I never forgot the kindness of a man who came to my aid when I was assaulted and robbed. While living in New York City as a young woman, I was riding my bike on a beautiful spring afternoon, along the East River. Suddenly, in a deserted stretch, I was stopped by a junkie, who held a broken glass bottle to my neck while demanding my bike. I gave it to him and he fled. I crossed the highway and found myself in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Shaken and scared, a man approached me, asked me what happened, and offered me a ride to a pay phone (this was WAY before cellphones). He said I might be unsafe crossing the projects to get there on foot. "Should I trust him," I thought? I was already vulnerable, and he could be taking advantage of the situation. I unconsciously weighed my options and decided I was better off taking him up on his offer. He drove me to the phone and waited for me to reach my boyfriend, to come and get me. When it was apparent he wasn't coming, the man said, "Don't worry. Here is cab fare," and he hailed a taxi. When I got in and asked for his name and address so I could return the money, he said, "Just help someone else out some time," and he left. It was 35 years ago, and I will never forget him. I have honored his wish by paying it forward, as he requested.

Kindness is bankable. The universe provides to those who need comfort, someone willing to give it. And for those who give it, kindness will be there when it is needed.

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