The Art of Giving

Giving opens many doors, creating new and numerous opportunities along our life paths.

In my line of work, I interact with a wide range of people representing countless organizations, passions and fields of endeavor. For some, I have noticed, giving is something that is difficult, if not impossible, to do. This is true of people who may have enjoyed great professional and financial success and others who have not. All of the non-givers have a hard time articulating respectable reasons for their seeming selfishness and inability to give.

Giving comes from the heart, but it also is an acquired behavior. Giving is learned early in a person’s development. Experts say it begins around the age of 2 when kids confront the challenge of “sharing their toys.”

Children observe what their parents and family members do to give to others and this helps establish their own philosophy of giving for their lifetimes. Once established as a practice, giving may manifest itself in tithing at church, buying Girl Scout cookies, preparing a meal for a sick neighbor or participating as a member of a family that always made it a practice to help others.

I believe that as members of society we have an obligation to give back, something that can be accomplished in many ways other than writing a check. We all have something that would be of value to another person or organization, even if it’s just a few kind words, a bit of our time or unused items that others can use.   

Prior to making my most recent annual trip to Central America, where I unite with friends from decades past to hang out, rest, reminisce, fish and eat well, I came up with an idea.

The country we visit is a poor one, but its people are rich in character and pride. Every year, we are greeted by Arturo Soto, who grew up with little but was influenced by a family that was moved by the spirit of giving. His mother, for example, would take in people from the local hospital who needed to recover from surgery until they were ready to travel to their homes in the countryside. Arturo was called upon to give up his bed to these persons in need. Today, Arturo helps many organizations in his town and serves as a city councilman. He is respected and admired by many for doing what comes to him naturally.

My traveling companions and I either own or work for successful companies, and I suggested that we all likely had serviceable, but retired, computers sitting around. I challenged each of our group’s members to bring one along on our trip. Two of us from Tallahassee each managed to stuff three systems with towers and keyboards into our overweight luggage. It was an adventure to push them through Customs, but the bubble-wrapped equipment arrived safe and sound.

Meanwhile, Arturo arranged for us to visit two schools in a remote area where the classrooms were hot and spartan. Teachers worked to manage six grade levels simultaneously, including emotionally disabled students from abusive homes. It was here that we delivered our computers.

In response, teachers were sincerely thankful and their students were wide-eyed. Many had never seen a computer before.

After we got the computers set up, the students honored us by presenting us with handmade gifts of appreciation. I don’t hesitate to tell you that I was touched.

The school is without internet service, but Arturo has contacts in the public education system and will be providing teachers with educational CDs to facilitate learning and help students take their places as global citizens.

I encourage you to assess your life at home and at work and resolve to do one additional act of giving this year. Doing so will make a big difference in another person’s life — and yours.  

Categories: Opinion