Give because it’s the right thing to do

14 01 2011

Sometimes you have something to say to someone that they need to hear. It’s the answer they are looking for, but it’s not the answer they want and it’s not scratching the itch they’re feeling at the moment. So you offer it up and it’s not received in the way you hope it will be received.

What do you do? Do you get angry, frustrated, begin to point out how this person is missing the picture or missing your point? No, that doesn’t help anything. You’ve set out to try to uplift someone and if they don’t absorb what your offering, certainly don’t respond by tearing them down and giving them a dose of, “Well if you don’t take what I’m giving then I’ll put you in your place, mister!”

You’ve put it out there and it’s out there. It got to them the best it could and it will come back at a time when it’s able to fit into position within them, to settle in and be of value to them. It can’t be forced if there’s no holding place for it to settle into. Time needs to pass and experience needs to create that holding place for your words to comfortably settle in and and take their place to have meaning and fortify their being.

I once offered a homeless man a cup of hot chocolate I bought for him, specifically for him. My son Spencer, eight years old at the time told me to give a homeless man a cup of hot chocolate as a gift of compassion while we were out that day. I thought that was an amazing request and was so happy that he had been learning good things at such a young age. As his dad I was going to take the opportunity to follow through and solidify in his young and developing character the value of giving, service and compassion.

So we walked into Starbucks and I bought hot chocolate for the three kids and an extra for the sign-holder and went down to the street level and I held out the cup of hot chocolate to the man who is holding a cardboard sign, which is telling us, “anything helps.” It was winter and it was cold. He was bundled up with gloves and a hat to cover his ears and head and he was huddling up to keep warm. I thought it was a nice gesture. I said, “here’s some hot chocolate, we got it just for you.”

He just looked at me and said, “I can’t hold it.”

I repeated and said, “I just bought it for you, it’s fresh warm, and it’s good.”

He said again, “I can’t hold it.”

So, what was I supposed to do? Get upset and react in anger? Being turned down is something you don’t hope for, but it happens and it’s OK. The point is that my little guy had the heart to make this offering of compassion to someone he saw in need, and he did it without worrying about what others around him might think. He was only concerned for this man who was holding out his hand.

So we took the hot chocolate and were going to offer it to someone else but there was nobody else around to give it to. We shared it and it was good, and we talked about this experience and we were able to see that sometimes people who are in need don’t want what you have to give and that it’s OK. The important thing is to offer, and to love them. Their reaction or response is their responsibility. Our responsibility is to be kind and to give what we can. If it is not understood that is OK. Sometime in the future that guy will remember the group of people who offered that hot chocolate to him and that memory will have some meaning and value. That day it didn’t, but that doesn’t mean that the experience was meaningless. It was important on many levels, and a selfish reaction of anger or contempt because of the rejection by the beggar would have turned that opportunity into something ugly and nasty.

Let’s all rise above ourselves and make the best out of every situation, and when we are rejected or surprised by the reactions of others, let’s be grateful for the opportunity we had to make any sort of offering whether it was accepted or not.

The moral to this story is to be bold, but not overbearing.  Be compassionate, but not forceful in giving.  Do things for the benefit of others, to make the future better, to make the world a better place.  Remember that your influence is like a seed being planted.  At the moment you plant it, it is unseen, buried and goes unnoticed.  But in time it grows and nobody remembers who planted it or where it came from, but the tree is there to offer fruit and shade and beauty to countless people who find themselves in its way.  To be noticed for your efforts is not the reward.  To bring comfort to the lives of others is.
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