You Can Have What You’re Willing to Give

When I was very young, I used to write letters to God. Whenever I was concerned, unhappy, questioning, confused, I would pen a letter to God, put it under my pillow and go to bed. The act of releasing my concern or question to the universe brought back the answers. Not always the answers I wanted. Sometimes the answer was, “yes;” sometimes the answer was “not right now;” sometimes the answer was, “Umm, think we have something else in store for you.”

Often it takes people hitting rock bottom before they are willing to not only give over the questions but receive the answers, whatever those answers might be. I was lucky. I – and I’m not sure why – always knew I had the ear of the universe and that if I asked — and was willing to accept the answer — I would get an answer.

In giving, I received.

Receiving and giving are two sides of the same spectrum. You can’t give TO receive, you must just give. And when you’re given back, you must receive graciously, with thanks. Many people have a great deal of difficulty receiving graciously. We feel beholden or like we owe something back.

We’re not talking just about money here. We’re talking about any good thing you can give: your time, your experience, your knowledge, your heart, your joy.

Giving money is part of the spectrum, and it’s the part that often gets all the attention when talk turns to “giving and receiving.” So let’s pay a little more attention to that for a moment.

If you give money and you do so only as a bargain to get more money, you won’t experience the flow. Your giving must be done honestly to share what you have. When you experience the joy of sharing, you’re in the flow.

Teaching our children to share helps them set up a natural flow of giving and receiving. When I gave my children their allowance, they were asked to put 5% to  sharing, so for every dollar they got they put a nickel in their sharing jar. Over time they used that money to contribute to food drives at school, participate in MS skipping marathons, and heaps of other activities. We would go at Christmas time and shop for toys for those children not as lucky to have our abundance. We would as part of our giving to each other, give to others.

I’m not big on “charities.” I like to know to whom I’m giving. So I don’t give randomly to people who ask. Instead I figure out what’s important to me, what I’m interested in, and then I give accordingly both in terms of money and time. And when others ask me to open my wallet, I smile and say, “I’ve got a giving plan, and I’ve already decided on my gifts for this year.”

As much as giving of my wallet, I’ve learned that giving my time, my expertise, my knowledge, my joy, and my acceptance are huge for the people in my life. Friends, lovies, strangers who need something I have are welcome to what I can give them.

But my giving of myself (as opposed to my money) isn’t random either. I don’t waste my time giving to people who aren’t prepared to do the work to help themselves. You probably saw that a lot in the TV shows I made; I had all the time in the world for people who would put to and bust their butts to change their lives. I had no patience for people who wanted to be spoon fed, or worse, wanted me to waive my magic wand and make everything right.

I don’t have the magic. YOU have the magic. I can point people in the right direction, but it is up to them to do the hard work to find their own path. Whether it is a path to financial stability or a path to a new career, a path to love or a path to joy, I can only share what I know, I can’t make it work for someone else. And I won’t waste my time with people who aren’t prepared to take responsibility for their own decisions.

And neither should you. Sharing isn’t about randomly throwing your goodness about. Like a farmer, you must feel confident that the seeds you are planting have half a chance of growing. Otherwise, you are wasting resources that would better be used elsewhere. Throwing your precious knowledge, concern, joy or encouragement on a field of stones won’t result in anything good. Be wise in your sharing. Make sure your giving is worthwhile.

Living a worthwhile life means contributing in meaningful ways to the energy of the universe. Angelina Jolie, when accepting an award spoke of the most important lesson her mother taught her. “Nothing would mean anything if I didn’t live a life of use to others.”

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Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join MyMoneyMyChoices.com to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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14 Responses to “You Can Have What You’re Willing to Give”

  1. A very wise message – heartwarming too. We really can make a difference in each other’s lives and it isn’t always about money, but I carefully choose what charities to donate to as well. I don’t just give because I’m asked like so many feel obligated to do.

  2. I volunteer at my daughters’ school, and knowing I’m helping out is all the “pay” I need. Seeing the smiling faces of all the students is worthwhile. I love to volunteer around our community, but it is sad to see so many of the same people volunteering, yet not many new faces come out. It tires those of us out who seem to always come out.
    I give an allowance to my girls too, and they have a charity jar, and it’s up to them who they support. They both just put money towards Me to We at their school, and they felt great knowing it was THEIR money helping out (to build a school in another country). They have donated to Terry Fox runs, Jump Rope for Heart and other charities and it’s their decision. I’m glad I’m helping to show them that volunteering and helping others is worthwhile and very heartwarming!

  3. Thanks Gail, couldn’t agree more. What I do find irritating though is when at the check-out, you are loudly asked to give ‘to children, or to (fill in the blank), in front of strangers and then you have responsibility to turn them down. I say responsibility because people should never be put on the spot like that. Many people find it embarrassing to turn them down. I feel I don’t owe these strangers an explanation as to why I’m not forking over that dough.

    You can glide by a person from Sally-Ann’s, or a person from the boy scouts in silence. To be ambushed at the cash register is a whole different thing. I find it pushy and wrong.

    Thanks, Leasa

  4. I have tithed 10% of my money for years and it just seems natural to me now, even in the difficult times. It always seems to come back to me in some form or another. I think many people have “charity fatigue”. So many organizations are asking for money that many people have stopped giving to anyone.

  5. Sometimes I do give randomly. It’s small change in my wallet, usually, but the intention is big. It’s to remind myself to think abundantly. And it’s a relief, frankly, when I plunk those coins into some charitable offering to realize that I don’t need to cling so tight to money. My natural inclination is to be cheap and I can turn into the Grinch if not careful.

  6. What a great post!

    The two focused things I take from this are plan and what’s meaningful to you. It’s constructive and there’s no guilt of sometimes saying ” not this time, thank you”

  7. I think once again is to know what your priorities are. Once you know where you are going, and what is important to you it makes it easier to find the meaningful things.

  8. The cashier asking for a donation when you’re buying something is a real annoyance for me. Sure, the giant corporate grocery store collects my money and pools it with a bunch of other people’s money to generate good PR for themselves when they’ve donated ZERO of their own money. I’m wondering – does that generate a nice tax break for themselves from the CRA with money that isn’t even their own? Maybe they at least match the donation. If that’s the case, it’s not as bad but I haven’t heard that advertised. I have far more respect for companies like Tim Horton’s with their camp day and McDonald’s McHappy day because while they of course take extra donations, they are donating THEIR money generated through the purchases people make.

    For the door-to-door campaigns and the gauntlet of people representing various charities stopping pedestrians in downtown Toronto, I offer Gail’s response. I have an automatic monthly donation to our local food bank whom I know makes good use of the money, I donate to my church on Sundays and I have friends and family that regularly participate in some of those big walk or run or climb the CN Tower stairs sort of events so I’ve budgeted for that too which is nice that they’re predictable so I can budget accordingly.

  9. I used to be a cashier and absolutely HATED having to ask people to donate to charity. I now have zero guilt saying ‘no thank you’ and I don’t offer any explanation about my personal giving plan – I don’t think the person asking really cares, ha ha! I just hope everyone is polite to the cashier when they say no – he/she probably hates asking the question as much as I did!

    P.S. Looking forward to implementing the 5% to charity when my son is old enough for an allowance – what a great idea!

  10. avatar Samantha Says:
    March 7, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    I find it much more prudent to donate time rather than money at this point in my life – negative net worth due to large professional student loans. I volunteer working with seniors. It’s so sad how our society shifts them aside (largely, I think, due to our hectic schedules and fear of our own mortality).

    After we break the 0 net worth point in 5 months time(!), my husband and I are going to start donating 5% of our take home pay.

    Nurturing gratitude for a privileged life is of utmost importance.

  11. I’ve become more disciplined and intentional in my giving as well. I’m not so much inclined to “go out there and volunteer”, though. I find there’s plenty enough to do in my configuration (sandwich generation mom).

    I tithe 10% gross as well. I don’t feel legalistic about how exact I am…I just love the picture of my giving as “a covering” over our family. Test God, like He says to, the one promise where He says, “And see if I don’t open the windows of heaven and pour down a blessing, pressed down, shaken together and running over!” I have been trained to have “eyes to see” the ways in which He works. Where you would think you’re out a whole bunch of bucks…it isn’t the case. I feel like one who is becoming more and more like a kid, watching with excited anticipation as He works in “the ordinary.”

    I also play a crazy fun game with God sometimes. When I see how pressed and burdened life is becoming for so many (I feel it, too, at times:(…), I might be in a grocery store and I ask Him, “Now? Should I give someone a cash-card…or pay for their groceries…now?” Often I hear, “No, not yet.” Then, I keep my excited kid-mentality at the ready and, BINGO! He brings me into someone’s reality (like the lady diligently working, going bin to recycling bin, to find bottles)…and Voila! I’m havin’ coffee with a new friend and we’re both shaking our heads at how crazy wonderful moments can become!

    These moments happen to me, too — giving back is a rush! (especially when you remain very intentional about what you’re doing. Stewardship is a lovely thing…joy and pain mixed together sometimes…full with meaning…

  12. avatar stephanie II Says:
    March 7, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    I love giving a $5 to the guy behind me in line at the coffee place I hit from time to time. The last time, a young man shouted to everyone “This lady just bought me a coffee”. I do it quietly; he was overjoyed. I think random gifts and kindness are a must in this world.
    And yes! Definitely! The Good Lord knows and watches over us. He doesn’t necessarily say “oh you didn’t give today” but will say “Child of mine, that was truly righteous”. I don’t think it really matters what we all give, just that we give that which we can. And to all of you giving already, thank you.

  13. avatar Rosemary Says:
    March 8, 2014 at 12:03 am

    Gail this post warmed my heart. Thanks for the inspiration.

  14. We have always tried to give back in some way. When we can, we volunteer. We also donate to certain charities that mean something to us. The local food bank is one of our major ones along with World Vision and Chalice. We chose to help out kids in other countries because we wanted to try to make a change for the good in someones life. The biggest thing I have found is the difference between the various children’s aid associations. Take a look at Moneysense’s charity lists to see what the admin staff gets paid. Really opens your eyes to where your money is going. We give for a selfish reason in part. It makes us feel good to share what we can. Having a young adult say thank you is such a rare event in our extended family that it is just a nice bonus.

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