Giving is good. If I could just live my life with two words, they would be “love” and “giving”. When all else fails, its love and what you have given to the world that keeps you going. When all else is going good, love and giving make you happier and sleep peacefully at night. At peace with yourself and the world around you. Don’t believe me? Think I am exaggerating goodness, keep reading and you might change your mind.
There is nothing more powerful than personal experience so here goes. I lost a few library books at a University where I served for 8 years with my heart and soul. I asked around for the books and everybody seemed clueless. Sadly I didn’t even get to read anything from some of the books that I borrowed because I didn’t find the material to be worth reading. As I have now left the University, I am going through a clearance process and the lost books acted as a liability – a hindrance standing in the way of me walking away with a big fat cheque.
I have accumulated too many books (if there is one such thing in an era that is largely digital) over the years for two reasons: the sight of books makes me content (having a library of sorts at home has been a dream from my teens); secondly buying books became a much needed sanity trip in a country where bombs blew off so often that many started avoiding local news. The former was done to save one from depression and the dreadful feeling of helplessness. As I looked at the heaps of books on the floor of my study now, I felt I had spent way too much money on books that I didn’t get time to read and nobody else benefitted from them either. What a waste, I thought. We all know how valuable a free text book is for a student. I had so many text books because of being in the academia that I felt a responsibility to share and donate.
So I resolved to attempt an Operation Cleanup and decided on giving away books. I kept a large pile of books as reference for my book that I am working on these days and I decided to give away and share a large part of the remaining collection with the world. What better place to give than the library of the very institution where I served for a significant portion of my life. I went from being committed to engaged to married to a mom of two – all while serving at the same institution. So I filled up 2 cartons with books and headed off to the University. While I was willing myself to feel good about the donation that I was going to make to the library of a 140+ year old University, I also felt pangs of pain in my stomach at the thought of spending another few hundred dollars on books, that too, the ones I had lost by trusting people to return them. It was my fault but how did I manage to goof up – again?!
The Library folks accepted the donation graciously but did not have the power to call for a compensation for the loss of books. I wrote to someone who had more power and voila! I received inarguably one of the sweetest emails I have in my inbox; recognising my contribution and good work, thanking me for my donation, and considering my donation to be a compensation for the lost books. Could I ask for more? I was not expecting my donation to do more good than what it was – a donation. Could I have imagined that my donation and commitment would pay off in such amazing ways if I had lived my life with a self-centered, everything-for-me ethos?
When you give your heart to your work and to those who deserve it, love finds a way of coming back to you in ways that can overwhelm you with joy. When you give, the world conspires to give more back to you. Unfortunately many think that selfishness, sometimes even at the cost of harming the welfare and happiness of others, is the way that leads to professional and personal success. I think people who live with the belief that they are entitled to more in every facet of their life and refuse to be thankful for what they get are entirely at a loss. It is important that your purpose in life is anchored in the right place. Your definition of ‘right’ makes all the difference here. But do give a little, give anything that you can. Someone living somewhere can benefit through an act of giving – from old clothes and other things you might not need to teaching someone a skill that you master and can help a person make some money. I am reminded of the famous quote by a Spanish philosopher from ages ago: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”