On my way through my favorite book store the other day I came across a small, profound book in the sale section. The Power of Giving was published in 2005, but it is full of timeless advice. This is not a book that you sit down and read in one or two sessions. This is more of a hand-book that you refer to as different challenges or opportunities arise. It covers everything from giving in relationships to personal charitable donations and corporate giving. Even if you already make giving part of your routine, I encourage you to get this book.
The authors relate giving to other exercises that grow or strengthen us. This quote they use from Trappist monk Thomas Merton really caught my attention:
“Souls are like athletes who need opponents worth of them if they are to be tried and extended and pushed to full use of their powers.”
Jamal and McKinnon write, “Just as your muscles weaken without physical exercise, so does your soul weaken without its special kind of exercise. A great exercise for your soul is the practice of giving. As with physical exercise, the more you do it, the easier it is, and the stronger you will become.”
Giving is an exercise that I was raised with. My parents believed in wasting nothing, and in giving back. I remember being a small girl and taking trips with my mom and brother and sisters to a nursing home near our house to visit folks. We didn’t know anyone there, that I recall. It was my mom’s way of giving back, and teaching us what it meant to give. It was only later in life, when my grandmother was ill, and I brought my daughter to visit her for the first time, that I realized the power that a child can have to bring joy.
Early on I learned that generosity was not about money, or didn’t have to be. As I got older, I made routines like donating clothing, and volunteering my own. There is something about passing your possessions on to someone else that keeps you grounded, and makes you feel part of humanity. As my daughter starts to understand what it means to own, and share belongings, I am starting to teach her what it means to give as well.
I am so thankful for my mom and the example she set, and even more impressed by her dedication to giving back – now that I understand more what it took to follow through.