Trees give fruits, hens hatch eggs, animals give milk and the fields birth rich harvests.
A boy accidentally fell into a small, shallow pond. Panicking, he began to shout: “Help! Bacchao!” Seeing his predicament, a passer by bent over, held out his hand and said, “Give! Give me your hand!” The boy did not do so, but kept struggling. Then, the passer by shouted, “Take! Take my hand!” The boy immediately grabbed his hand and was pulled out. The man asked him: “When I said ‘give me your hand’, you did nothing. But, when I said ‘take my hand’, you grabbed it immediately — how come?” The boy replied, “Daddy and mummy said when people say ‘give’, never give! But when they say ‘take’, grab, take fast!”
Strange as this story sounds, it somehow captures the disposition of most of us today — quick to receive from others but never willing to give of “who” we are and “what” we have. Indeed, from a very young age, we are schooled to be aggressive go-getters, trained to grab for ourselves, for self-glory. But, isn’t there a joy in giving to others since we’ve received so much from others? From God?
Mother Earth and her progeny are prolific givers. Trees give fruits, hens hatch eggs, animals give milk and the fields birth rich harvests. Unaware and unasked, these natural givers seek neither recompense nor recognition. But when we think of ourselves, human beings, there’s normally a hook attached to our giving — even though externally our giving might appear meritorious.
The Bhagwad Gita sees giving as a deeply spiritual act. Accordingly, a gift may be pure (sattvika) if unconditionally given; or coloured by selfish motives (rajasika); or dark (tamasika) with evil intentions. Let’s ask: Why do I give what I give? For recognition? Or reward?
Jesus praises the mite of two copper coins that a poor widow put into the temple treasury because, while others donated out of their abundance, “she put in everything she had”. Pure self-gift! Elsewhere, Jesus exhorts his disciples: “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be poured into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get.”
“Zakat” or almsgiving is one of the pillars of Islam, next in importance only to prayer and worship. Muslims are exhorted to donate about 2.5 per cent of their wealth towards the welfare of the poor and the destitute, which many willingly do.
Saint Paul writes, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. Do we savour the blessings of giving? Though one’s worth is often valued not really by who one “is” but by what one “has”, let us strive to be go-givers, not just go-getters. That will make our world a happier place for all.