“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”
- Buddha

"We live Meaning into reality by how we live. It’s not about going to heaven when we die, but about creating a small taste of heaven here and now." - Cynthia Bourgeault

We have been fortunate to have been given many gifts in our lives. Firstly, LIFE, the most precious gift. We are healthy and have every opportunity in the world to pursue almost everything that presents itself to us. Both your father and I have been able to educate ourselves at the post-secondary and personal level. The gift of education is a great one and one that cannot be taken for granted.

Your father and I are blessed to have found each other. (NOTE: I speak of blessed in the contented meaning for our beliefs are rooted in the here and now and we ascribe to no religion). I have been given the gift of being able to have children. Some find it difficult to conceive and some never can. We have also been given the gift of choice. Sadly, this gift is stripped from many people. Lastly, we have been given the gift of undying support from our family and friends. Without these beams our tower may have crumbled.

With all that has been given to us, it is necessary to give back. We must extend to others what we have experienced ourselves. Some think of the act as a selfish one, and yes, for many, the act of giving is only a means by which to assert power over others by demonstrating one's success through monetary acquisition. But true giving is a selfless gift. It is done without expectation, tailored to the receiver's needs, and with the hope of casting a smile on a face. It is full of empathy, compassion, and love.

Growing up, I had this innate need to make sure others were happy. I was always deeply saddened at the bullied classmate, the sick friend, the friend with the low self-esteem, the wallflowers at school dances. I would stand up to the ignorant, hold someone's head over the toilet, offer my girlfriend my lunch because she refused to eat, and peel those flowers off the gymnasium wall for an impromptu dance. I would like to think that I gave the gift of friendship, something all of us need to feel.

Below are some other takes on giving. It is my hope, my children, that you give to people, the earth, and each other. For it is in this act that love is magnified and happiness made.

"From Michael Berg:

The real purpose for which we have each come to this life is to live in complete joy and fulfillment. How do we achieve this destiny? By transforming the foundation of our being from getting to giving.

From Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel:

The Dalai Lama often teaches on a famous Buddhist verse that says: “All the happiness the world has to offer comes from desiring wellbeing for others. And all the suffering the world has to offer comes from desiring happiness solely for oneself.”

This simple verse reflects a natural equation: that selfishness causes pain, and caring for others causes happiness. It suggests that if happiness is truly what we seek, we need to engage the cause of happiness by turning our attention toward the wellbeing of others.

Curiously, we have some strong misguided instincts that fool us into thinking that we can find happiness solely through cherishing and protecting our self. Our thoughts and activities most often focus on our own welfare. We spend much of each day struggling with what we want, what we don’t want, and all of our hopes and fears.

The practice of extending love and kindness to others does not require we get rid of our own desire for happiness. It only requires we include others in this wish – a wish we usually reserve only for ourselves, our family, or our friends. We have to expand our sense of “me” and “mine” in order to include others in the realm of our care. And as we do this we move away from a contracted, self-focused and isolated state toward a way of being that has limitless connection to life around us.

When we begin to pay attention to life around us we start to see opportunities to practice loving kindness everywhere. We might give a blanket to a homeless person on the street, lend an ear to someone in pain, feed a stray animal or simply acknowledge the presence of a stranger. These small gestures make such a big difference to others and they awaken in us the best of our humanity. When we see a need and respond to it, the joy we experience can sustain us for the entire day.

The practice of giving is not simply a crusade to do good. It serves as a means of awakening the best of who we are as human beings. Whether we are actively engaged in giving or simply including others in our wish for happiness, we could never find a more meaningful or intelligent way to live out our lives than this. Given its power, it’s no wonder that the great spiritual leaders throughout history so highly valued the transformative nature of loving kindness and the act of serving others.

From Deepak Chopra:

It's not just giving, it's the spirit.

I'd like to talk about the hidden side of giving. People have a vague feeling that God favors those who give. Since Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive, tithing became an established practice in Christian life. In India the focus is on karma -- in order to offset their bad deeds, people want some good karma, and giving to the poor is a way to do that. Still, as religious practice fades in every society, giving has become more secular. Few people feel secure in their conviction that giving has spiritual meaning.

I think that East and West are offering the same piece of wisdom: it's not what you give but the spirit in which you give that counts. At the level of the soul there are really three levels of giving:

  1. Quid pro quo: you give in order to get something back. Whether you want a bit of good karma or a smile from God, the spirit here is selfish. Tit for tat is the rule. The giver expects to be appreciated. Big donors, whether to a political candidate or a prominent charity, expect to be noticed and praised. In small ways we all harbor a selfish part of ourselves. Imagine how you'd feel if you gave a lavish Christmas present to someone and received nothing back, not even a word of thanks? Suddenly, the act of giving would turn sour. When you give in order to add to your self-image, the act may be generous, but the spirit isn't. It's even common for this kind of giving to involve a good measure of guilt.
  2. Charity from the heart. This is giving out of love. The word "charity" comes from the Latin "caritas," or love. In early Christianity caritas became one of the three great virtues, along with hope and faith. By the time of St. Paul it already meant charity in the modern sense, but the spirit of love was always understood. One gives as a child of God to another child of God. In this spirit there is no expectation of return. One may give anonymously or to strangers. Charity is selfless. It leaves the ego aside, if only briefly, with one intent in mind: to add to the sum total of love in the world. The spiritual significance is to expand the heart.
  3. Giving everything that you are. This is true generosity of spirit. There is no separation between giver and receiver. You offer up your whole life, and in return life makes you more whole. This isn't just a mystical wish. Once you realize that everything comes from the universe and goes back to the universe, there is no need to make giving be about "me." Possessing nothing, you can give everything. You know that the universe has infinite resources; therefore, life itself can be based upon giving.

Looking around, one realizes that giving everything is the most natural way. You and I are here because Nature stinted in nothing. The air, the sky, the plant and animal kingdoms enrich the earth freely. The creative source that gave rise to life allowed single-celled algae and bacteria to evolve into the human brain, the most complex structure in the known universe. When the spirit of life really sinks in, and we realize the incredible gift we've received, the only possible act of appreciation is to give back with equal generosity.

In other words, giving should be twenty-four hours a day. At the level of spirit you can give of yourself completely. That's the goal we are all evolving toward. At certain moments we sense this, all of us. A mother's attitude toward her infant child is one of complete giving, out of wonder that new life has become hers to nurture and protect. In expanded form, this attitude becomes Ahimsa, a Sanskrit word often translated as "reverence for life." As a doctor I also like the definition for "harmlessness," because a physician's first duty is to do no harm. When you revere life, violence disappears, and it is only natural to do no harm. You are linked to all life, and by magic, every gift you give becomes a gift to yourself."

This was borrowed from Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP.COM.

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