This is one of my favorite topics, so forgive me if I keep rehashing it and presenting it in yet another blog to you. Drawing from my earlier post on nature versus nurture, I had the good fortune of knowing three very generous ladies. Two of them were my grandmothers and one was my ‘adopted’ grandmother. My Dadima (dad’s mom) was a businesswoman and she did really well selling cooking gas to households and hotels. Ganga (my adopted grandmother) lived with her and took care of the home, the dogs, the garden and cooking. My Mutasshi (my mom’s mom) lived in the quiet village of Viakkom in Kerala with my grandpa, who was retired. They lived off his small pension and some money they made by selling coconuts, cashews and other things that my grandpa grew in his huge backyard.
Although they all had different incomes, they were infinitely compassionate. People would come to them, steeped in debt or unable to shoulder an unexpected expense and the money was given. My Mutasshi has gone as far as pledging her gold chain to help a maid. Ganga denied herself a home and paid a huge sum towards a loved one’s home. Dadima has married off some of the younger maids and provided utensils and other things they needed to set up a home. This blog is too small to share their acts of generosity. Suffice to say that at both my grandmas’ funerals, strangers came to us weeping and relating stories of their compassion and altruism.
Give to receive. I learnt this lesson when I was still a schoolgirl. Riding a bus back home one day, I sat next to a gray-haired lady of somewhat frugal means. She was short of 25 paisa (equivalent to a quarter) and the rude conductor was yelling at her. I quickly fished out some change and thrust it into the conductor’s hand. He muttered and withdrew to his seat.
A few days later, I didn’t have change for five rupees and the conductor (not the same one) refused to take it and give me change. I pleaded with him but he told me to get off at the next stop. I was nearly in tears. One lady overheard the whole thing and asked me how much the fare was. I told her and she quietly extracted the coins from her purse and gave it to the conductor. Karma or pay back! What else can I say!
When I was still in school I would look for ways to help and had a mental checklist. If I helped someone I said to myself – you have done your good deed for today! Growing up meant burying all of this in the whole money-making, getting ahead in life and succeeding craziness that we all buy into. How right we are as kids, with our hearts in the right place. And then we unlearn all of heaven’s wisdom and replace it with a worldliness so nonsensical to become grown -ups! Our intellects expand but our hearts shrink.
Gratitude means different things in different cultures. In some cultures a simple thank you is enough. In Japan, one way of expressing gratitude is to say that you are indebted to the other person and owe them a favor. They don’t stop at just lip service. They actually go out of their way to help the other person – sometimes more than once. In some cultures this kind of generosity may be taken advantage of.
Acts of kindness have a ripple effect beyond the giver and receiver. The gift of gratitude keeps on giving. It all adds up in your karmic record and comes bounding back in heaps and loads, when you least expect it.
If life is not going well for you right now and you are not receiving all that you are wishing for, stop and find ways to give. Give exactly what you need to receive and watch the magic happen. Just the act of selfless giving creates joy in your life. And being in a state of joy helps. It attracts good things to you and possibly the very thing you were missing will show up.
Another way of doing it, is to be grateful for what you have every single day instead of harping on what’s missing. Gratitude was the one thing that turned my life around, followed by giving. So when I wasn’t getting any calls for interviews, I jumped back into volunteering. After my first meeting with other volunteers, I came home and found an e-mail from the school district asking if I was still interested in the job I had applied for! Later someone from a staffing company called me and told me she was interested in hiring me. What more proof can I give you? Gratitude and giving open the flood doors to great gifts. Give and you shall receive. And when you receive, don’t forget to send a thank you note. I highly recommend keeping a stash of thank you notes in your stationery drawer. You never know when you will need one.
Have you experienced the boomerang effect of giving in your life? Do share your stories.