Why Give?

This must have been an enriching interactive session where Rotarians shared their thoughts on the 'Joy of Giving' this Monday.   Having yesterday shared Rtn Arvind Mehan's thoughts on the subject, another of our Rotarian friend, Dinesh Kumar, has shared the pointers to his talk. 

Dinesh says that giving alms to beggars is something like an automated activity when we just toss a coin to a beggar without much thought.  One needs to look beyond and search for those in genuine need in whose life we can make a difference.  For example, Dinesh says, that at times we use to give Barbie Dolls and Teddy Bears in an orphanage, but once we visited there, the inmates needed cold cream and woolen socks.  This we had never thought of earlier, he adds.
Giving is not about giving money or goods, since most of the time, it is giving of your time is more meaningful and needed than any material good, he says.  But, to conclude, the best one can do is to give from the heart, by fulfilling a real need...something that will have a lasting impact.

We also reproduce below the speech from Ms Supreet Dhiman, sister of our Rtn. AP Singh Dhiman, and who, though not formally a Rotarian, is engaged in so much of humanitarian work that we commend her for her leadership, care and concern that she has for the people around her.  Her contribution to collection of blood every three months for the Rotary Heartline project is one commendable example.  

Lead the Way when it comes to Giving.
Supreet Dhiman

They say that at times the best thing one can give is an opportunity. So allow me to thank you Mr President for inviting me here this evening, a place which is home to me, a dais I treat with respect. As we have heard two perspectives already about the joy of giving, I would like to share my thoughts with you from a personal experience. I can’t imagine the joy Bill and Melinda Gates might have experienced when they gave billions to eradicate polio as I have trouble in scribbling the number of zeros that sum represents. However, I can connect much easily with the satisfaction felt by all who participated in every pulse polio drive held by our club or held events to raise funds for the same. My experience is much more localised.

Today, when I am supposed to share my thoughts with you on Giving, I would like to begin from the other end of the thread, ‘why don’t we give?’ Giving should come very easily in a country which is ruled by the ‘soon to be rich’ and lived in by the poorest of the poor.

The sight of the grimy bodies in tattered clothes approaching us at a traffic signal makes us squirm. We are glad for the glass between us and them, as they press their filthy noses against it, trying to catch a glimpse of our comfortable world inside — sleek cell phones, laptops, wallet, and perhaps food. Impatiently, we wait for the traffic to move as they tap incessantly on the glass. Sometimes, we toss a few coins towards them. Our conscience at ease, we move on. That’s our giving done.

Drop the coin and move on, this is our general attitude towards giving. This is how most of us would like to do something by way of charity. It has no before and after, no emotional dilemmas. The notion that giving to beggars is wrong, that begging scams abound, allows a huge population of educated Indians to sleep easy. We can walk past the countless outstretched palms on the street and into our thousand rupee buffet lunches without a pang of guilt. A horde of beggars asking for burgers and pizzas in Khan Market ofcourse does not help, just as seeing the same set of beggars exchanging their tuppence and soiled tenners at the counter of the shop nearest to the traffic lights they have been begging at through the day, for crisp notes of 100’s and 500’s.

However, is this enough evidence for us to ignore the millions who go hungry, live without a means to earn a livelihood, fight diseases without comfort of medical care are too far removed from our comfortable lives. We live in denial of that world. That which we cannot see, does not exist.

Not long ago I was in Delhi to collect some official documents at an appointed time and the time lag between the arrival of Shatabdi in Delhi and my appointment was barely comfortable. On the way from the train station, we were approached by a stream of beggars tapping on the windows which we kept ignoring. Traffic lights after traffic lights, the scenario remained the same, till we reached the last set.

(Courtesy: Rilla Jaggia's blog)
There was this young boy wearing clean shirt and half pants, gingerly walked towards our cab. He was not asking for money or burgers but was clutching onto a dozen pens in his hand which he gently brought upto the cab window. Something made me roll down the glass and I asked him if he ever went to school? He said till Class 3. When I asked him why was he not in the school that day, at first he went white but then with downcast eyes he said softly, ‘because my papa can’t afford to send me to school anymore and needs me to sell these pens so that we can buy medicines for my dadi.’ As my heart went out for this obedient little boy who obviously missed being in school, I empathise and commend the father who opted to teach his son the craft of selling rather than the trade of begging. I bought all the pens he was clutching and then used the same pen to write down my telephone number on a piece of paper before the light turned green. I am still waiting for a call. Even now I wonder if my appointment was more important than perhaps talking to him a little more and open a window of opportunity to speak with his father. I could have done more. I could have given him my time!

If we look around and want to see, we will notice an odd emaciated man licking leftovers from discarded meals at the garbage dump; the little girl turned out of school for not wearing shoes; the poor patient’s family agonising over the decision to sell their last piece of land to pay for the medical treatment. In a world so riddled with greed and corruption, where every man seems to be out to get another, it is not easy to trust.

Deceipt happens, but does that mean we stop giving? Rumi, the mystic-poet, narrated this incident of a man who, walking past a beggar, asked, “Why, God, do you not do something for these people?” God replied, “I did do something. I made you.”

Perhaps we don’t give because in the fear the unknown future may hold for us, we forget to appreciate life we have today? A vicar friend of mine in England shared a story with me years ago. He said, ‘A man and woman who gave a sizeable contribution to the church to honor the memory of their son who lost his life in the war. After the announcement was made of the generous donation, another church-goer woman approached me, "Can I give the same amount for our boy!" Her husband immediately said, "What are you talking about? Our son wasn't killed." "That's just the point," she said. "Let's give it as an expression of our gratitude to God for sparing his life!" Giving is a celebration of life itself and no celebration can take place without inner joy.

There’s another example of a devout Christian family having donated a sizeable sum of their fortune to help establish Baylor University in the US in the 19th century. As luck would have it, soon after they lost their riches and someone asked them, ‘Do you regret having donated such a large sum to the university? That money would have surely helped you today?’ He promptly responded, ‘No regrets in the least for had I held on to that money, I would have lost that too in my current misfortune!’ It’s the perspective that matters in the end.

How much do we really need to horde?
Sai itna deejiye, jitna kutumb samaaye....
Main bhi bhookha na rahoon, sadhu na bhookha jaye. 

When we give freely, we feel full and complete; when we withhold, we feel small, petty, impotent, and lacking. We are meant to learn this great truth, that giving fulfills us, while withholding causes us to feel empty and even more needy. This truth runs counter to our current programming of greed, which drives us to try to get something from others to fulfill our neediness, only to end up even more needy, grasping, lacking, and unfulfilled. Is it our greed which stops us from giving? Have we forgotten that when we spend, we loose but when we give, we gain! Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.

Khalil Gibran had said “I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” Is this the joy that arises from giving we are discussing today?

Let’s focus on giving once again. Giving, taking, earning, stealing, squandering, hoarding. These are all human impulses, and we wouldn't be human without them. Yet on this list only one item — giving — appears in the world's wisdom traditions. Why is giving set apart? After all, there's no mystery to why someone might want to earn, hoard, squander, or steal a million dollars. What is so special about GIVING? Is it because it's easier to take than to give? Is giving special because it's nobler to give than to take? It has been widely said that the thrill of taking lasts a day. The thrill of giving lasts a lifetime.”

So what constitutes GIVING? Giving can take any kind of shape of form. Giving can be done in any of the three forms – tan se, mann aur dhan se. I would add a fourth one to this tenet  dimaag se. Each one of these ways of giving are vital to fulfil a need.’ If our work does not permit us from being physically present, then at least we can make a monetary contribution. Even if people are willing to do the work, nothing can be achieved if there is no one to put forth feasible ideas into practice  If we look around, Rotary Ann Babbi Ji is a prime role model of sewa, tann se. The likes of Rtn Rajiv Bali and Rtn Jaspal Kandhari do their sewa, dhan se.  I have witnessed Rtn Pratap Agarwal givng mann se, by helping streamline current vocational training programs while working with his office team to help establish a sustainable model for some new ones. And then we also have the honour of having Rtn PJ Singh who gives to the Rotary Foundation so that the sum he donates there comes back manifold to the community. Could that be giving, dimaag se? I guess in this club the one who leads in all the three departments of giving is Rtn Raja Saboo. You guys are way ahead in giving, but could we make it a lifestyle rather than a statement?

Let us not wait for other people to be loving, giving, compassionate, grateful, forgiving, generous, or friendly... lead the way!

The Joy of Giving

Beautiful thoughts penned by Rtn. Arvind Mehan which we share with everyone. A must read:                                    
Just for a moment, pause and think why did someone say, “Give, give till it hurts.” It means that when you give, you must give part of yourself – pouring your heart out with feelings of empathy and concern to the less fortunate. Giving your blood to save a life is a wonderful example. And like they say, money alone cannot buy you happiness; similarly it cannot buy you the “Joy of Giving”. In addition, you have got to volunteer your time and space to share your love and compassion.

To experience this “gift of joy”, giving has to become a way of life. Your action can be as small as giving a smile to someone. You will look beautiful and spread the beauty around. It can be a bit bigger by trying to put a smile on someone's face, be it a stranger, by speaking nicely to him; especially a stranger from whom you have nothing to expect. You will be sweet and spread the sweetness around. Now try to be sensitive and caring to those around you - at home, the neighbourhood or work place. Lend your ear to someone, give a healing touch to a sick person, or show your respect and care to a lonely, elderly person. You will be kind and spread the kindness around you. It’s time to start counting your blessings! You will start enjoying life again – every breath, every heartbeat.

Now, try to part with a portion of your earnings to help the poor, or take some of your time out of your busy schedule to go out and serve a needy in distress. Then go ahead thank him for giving you the opportunity to serve. You will feel so powerful, yet so humbled. You will start realizing that giving more of yourself strengthens your bond with humanity and also with the real provider, God. If you want to create a wall between you and Him, hold back your giving. The more you hold back your hand the weaker your connection with Him. Give Him your all – in total surrender, and then see the joy. If you just think when you give, it is He who is giving through you, He starts flowing through your Bloodstream!

It is an amazing, uplifting feeling only to be experienced – how, by giving, you get that wonderful sense of gratitude, much more than the recipient; the satisfaction bestowed on you through an action where God simply made you an instrument for helping society through you. He especially chose you because He had confidence in your abilities. Do not let this opportunity pass. It may never come again. You never know, in the cycle of life, it may return one day staring you in the face when you may be at the receiving end. Let us not wait for that to happen. Let us celebrate our good fortunes and "Give, give till it heals the soul ".