Saturday, December 25, 2010

Musings: On Giving

Silent night gave way to a subdued Christmas morning, the air heavy with moisture, which amplified the stillness, the calm, the quiet, broken only by bird sound and song, the rooster choir long over. Dew dripped like rain from palm fronds, eaves, drenching the grass; sun glinted hazily through sparkling leaves, turning spider webs into diamond-dotted strands of gold.

And as I sat on the porch, Koko happily gnawing on a bone, I took it all in and gave thanks and praise.

It’s the time of year to give, be it gifts or gratitude or alms to the poor, canned goods to the Food Banks, quarters to the Salvation Army kettle, year-end donations to favorite charities — gestures all intended, in one way or another, to make the world — lives — a little bit better. And that’s had me thinking the past few days about a recent exchange in the comments section that went something like this:

I would like to know what the "rich" have done to make this a better place for us all to live?

Dr Shibai

This was followed by:

what have you done to make this a better place? What have the poor done? what have the middle class done? As a group or as individuals? What kind of idiot question is that even? "The rich" is made up of individuals. Like any other arbitrary way you can group them up, of the individuals who happen to be "rich," some have done squat (like you maybe?) while others have done a great deal to make this a better place under any measure you'd care to define as "making it a better place."

Dr Shibai, a doer of many good deeds, later told me the challenge didn’t rankle, because it’s a question we all should ask ourselves periodically: what am I really doing to help others?

About this time, I encountered this quote from writer Jack London in an issue of “The Week:”

”A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.”

And I started thinking about how it’s relatively easy to give when it’s easy to give, if you get my drift, but not so easy when you really have to give — of yourself, or some thing you do not feel you have in abundance. That’s the hard giving, the kind we tend to give short-shrift or reserve for those we love most.

Yet more of that hard giving is what we most need; long and short, it’s the “solution” to our myriad woes that people are always pressing for, but continue to ignore, because it can be hard work to do the hard giving. So we keep pretending we don’t know the way out, despite the admonitions and teachings of birthday boy Jesus and every other spiritual leader for thousands of years: Give a little bit.

And then a little bit more.


Anonymous said...

mahalo for your many contributions to our community. hau oli makahiki hou!

Anonymous said...

Yes, big mahalo, Joan! All the best!

Anonymous said...

I second that "mahalo" and offer a video that made me think of you when I watched it...

...and I agree with the recommendation to watch it silently, btw.

Here's to a good 2011 for Kauai!

Joan Conrow said...

Way cool video, and I watched it silently, too. Mahalo for sharing!

Guess we'll just have to wait for the 2011 lunar eclipses!