“It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to overcome. Its appeal is to the material part, and if allowed its way, it will in time disturb one’s spiritual balance.
Therefore, children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving.
If a child is inclined to be grasping, or to cling to any of his or her little possessions, legends are related about the contempt and disgrace falling upon the ungenerous and mean person…
The Indians in their simplicity literally give away all that they have–to relatives, to guests of other tribes or clans, but above all to the poor and the aged, from whom they can hope for no return”.
My mother sent me this quote from Charles Alexander Eastman of the Santee Sioux, writing that “when I read this…you came to mind because you are generous with your things”.
I danced my head a little higher and gave a nice soft smile–approachable enough that if my roommate were to walk past the door she would maybe think, “this is a chick I can borrow something from!”
My parents made sure that we were taught lessons of generosity–that giving feels good because it is good. We were taught to whom to give, how much to give, when we should give (everyone, more than you think you can, when you don’t feel like it).
But End-Product Josie (who will never really stop growing up, but at least the end-product of the first 20 years) is not as stoic as I would like her to be. Putting on the glasses of reality to look a little more at the quote, she doesn’t actually align all that well with this quote.
I understand how good it feels to give. I also understand that a day spent in pure self-servitude is usually a miserable kind of day.
There is a correlation between happiness and giving; giving strengthens community and communitiy blankets environment and a “healthy” enviornment (whatever that means) is the envelope which houses your official invitation to happiness.
I don’t have many useful things to give; I don’t have much money to give. So I like to think I’m void from the necessity of generosity.
Charles Alexander Eastman doesn’t say, “they are taught to give money and food and car-rides, that they may taste the happiness of giving”, he says, “they are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving”.
My car doesn’t work at the moment. I don’t prize the stuff I have; partly because I’m not very sentimental and most of it is second-hand, anyways. I really don’t prize money; if it were up to me, we would ditch this whole capitalism thing and return to the good-and-inefficient days of trade and barter.
Second most: my freedom. Freedom from the box, freedom from labels, freedom from expectations and stereotypes and limitation and social pressure and time restraints and monotonous schedules.
So how do I take the intangible that I prize most–time, freedom, personal theories–and give them away? Give them to those “from whom [I] can hope for no return”?
Good question to mull through a blog post, I’d say.
What is the point of giving money? So that someone in need of money will have it.
What is the point of giivng away clothes/shoes/dishes/couches? So that someone in need of those particular items will have them.
So then what would be the pont of giving away time/freedom/theories? So that someone in need of these particular items will obtain more of it.
Time is perhaps the easiest of the lot to imagine giving. “Sacrificing” my introvert-time for others so that they can be filled even if it leaves me empty. I can give my time; I can slow down, I can listen when someone is talking to me instead of rushing away to jump to something else. I can give time so that others can gain time: working shifts, doing more of a group-work project.
Freedom…I have expectations of freedom for myself. Other have entirely different expectations of freedom. Oftentimes I like to thrust my expectations upon others; but this blocks their sense of freedom. So perhaps this looks like giving up my freedom of constant movement to serve someone else’s freedom of being secure within a community.
How can I give my sense of life theories so that someone else increases in their life-theory? It’s such an abstract concept, it really doesn’t make sense housed in a sentence like that.
I develop theories on everything through two fundamental actions: being curious and verbal processing. Curiosity is something that has to be fostered within the individual: but verbal processing is an external action.
If I give my chance to explain a theory of mine in favor of someone else processing through a theory that they have, that is me sacrificing my “what I believe is the right answer” to let someone process through a thought on what they believe is a right answer.
Again, sorry for the massive level of abstraction going on with these examples.
So reflection upon the above quote: generosity, like the human spirit, is individual. It is not a formula, it is not a one-and-done, it is not weakness. It’s giving when we think we can’t anymore. It’s giving what we think we can’t live without.
It is giving what we prize most.
It is giving all that we have.
It is giving to those from whom we cannot hope for return.
Perhaps generosity is the antithesis to insecurity. If I am to give away something precious to me, I have to be secure enough in myself that I can trust I can deal with less quantities of that precious object.
The more we let go of our materials–tangible or otherwise–the more we free ourselves to whatever it is that remains. I have no idea what would remain if I stripped myself from my love of time, freedom, and theory.
Perhaps that’s where the happiness of giving lies.
Peace and Blessings,