No one has ever become poor by giving. – Anne Frank
I recently heard a rabbi give a sermon on Giving of oneself and doing good deeds (the Hebrew word is ‘hesed’ meaning loving kindness, acts of kindness).
I started off half listening thinking, one more speech on the subject. But I started tuning in as I heard some new words being emphasized – comfort zone, personal agenda, narcissism. The sermon was starting to have a different twist. I leaned forward to listen with extra effort.
Two questions about our giving
1. Are we giving according to the needs of others, or are we doing our good deeds in alignment with our own needs?
2. Are we doing for others even if it creates discomfort in ourselves or are we simply doing what makes us feel good and worthy?
And when he used the example of not visiting a sick person in the hospital because of the personal difficulty for the visitor, I was immediately hooked. When my daughter was in the hospital on a respirator there were a couple of people who meant a lot to our family who apologetically said they could not come because they could not bear to see her like that.
The rabbi’s response – do it anyway, visit anyway; get over it and go.
His overall message was – giving is about the other, not me. It’s about their need, not mine. It’s about their comfort, not mine. It’s about their agenda, not mine. Giving to promote ourselves can be an act of narcissism. It’s couched under a good disguise though. But the truest form of’ hesed’ is done when it may not create the most feel-good feelings; when it may bring forth some discomfort.
And yet we do it anyway.
When angels appear
His words have really stayed with me.
I decided my next Sabbath dinner guests wouldn’t simply be my friends but a couple of people who are on the fringes of the community, who most people don’t befriend. This ‘hesed’ spread further because when I wasn’t feeling well enough to do all the cooking and was ready to cancel the company, my daughter stepped up and helped me by cooking some of the dishes. She knew it was an important act I was trying to carry out.
I also have had some great role-models who exemplify this message. My mother who is a pro at seeking out acts of kindness to perform, and one person in particular who, when my daughter was in a coma for three months, often came and polished her toenails and put lotion on her feet. And she wasn’t even a close friend.
Sometimes angels appear to teach us how to behave. These two people (among others) serve as my inner guides today in working my path of ‘hesed.’
We all want to do good. We all want to make a difference. We all want to affect others in a positive way. We all want to know our lives matter.
Giving is a natural extension of ourselves and promotes goodness all around. It makes us feel good about ourselves, which yes, we all want to feel. But let’s give in a way that truly benefits the other, that is in his/her best interest. And if we aren’t sure, we can always ask.
Here’s a simple one – when buying a birthday present for someone – do we buy what we know the other likes or do we buy what we want for them? People drop hints all the time of what they wish for. Listen, jot it down and when it’s gift time, get it.
We must step outside ourselves and think beyond little old us in order to Give. And as we know it also happens to be a great mitigation for depression (which is rampant in our society today).
So when driving home today, think who needs that hello phone call even though we don’t really want to talk to them because they go on and on with every single detail. Do it anyway.
Who are your ‘Giving’ role models?
How do you give?