What does giving mean to you? How does it make you feel? How do you think it makes the recipient feel? We typically don’t ask ourselves these questions before offering our time, talent or treasure. But why not?
I have always felt the need to give. Ever since I can remember, I have wanted those around me to be happy—even if at my own expense. At age seven, I used all of my birthday money to create a collage of my late grandfather as a Christmas gift for my grandmother. Was he someone that I had the closest relationship with? No, but I understood how meaningful it would be to my grandmother to commemorate her sweetheart.
To say I felt nervous as she opened the collage would be an understatement. Would the photos upset her? Make her happy? The answers to those questions leading up to the big reveal were a mystery and quite torturous for a young girl that feared disappointing any living creature, let alone her own family.
When she opened it there were no words, no tears, just a smile—a warm smile that I can still feel in my heart whenever I reflect on this moment. My anxiety turned to pride knowing that I had done a “good job.” And from then, until her passing 14 years later, the frame sat on her bureau only disturbed by those taking a closer look.
Looking back through the lens of an adult with a husband of her own, the gift takes on a whole new meaning—a meaning that is personal to me. Unfortunately, I will never have the opportunity, at this stage of my life, to ask what she felt the moment she saw his photos or at any given time thereafter. I can only speculate and imagine the significance and lasting effect this gift had for her or anyone who saw it.
The sense of self-gratitude one feels after offering a gift to someone is really just a scratch on the surface. When you take a step back and look at giving holistically, you will notice that the magnitude of your gift is truly immeasurable. Giving something to someone is a linear action with a defined end point. There is a Point A and a Point B. But the consequences of giving are cyclical in nature with boundless potential for good.
Going into this holiday season, take a step back and think. Be defined by the consequences of giving and not the action itself. Remember: Giving is personal and its significance should never be measured by its tangibility but rather its lasting effect.