Week 7 – Giving Without Getting

This week I cleaned out, packed up and shipped my breast pump to a woman I don’t know (friend of an acquantaince),because she needed it.

I didn’t need reasons or excuses, I just did it.

It was fantastic to be able to help someone, and that alone is thanks enough.

“Even with every door you hold open, car you allow to merge, smile you flash, compliment you give, encouragement you offer, you are making a deposit into someone’s life. The best part of this form of giving is your bounty to give is limitless and in the end, the feeling of fulfillment you get makes you the greatest recipient. Test yourself, how many times did you make a positive deposit today?” -from the facebook page of Darren Hardy

I’ve stumbled upon quite a few “giving without getting” type quotes lately, and they have all struck me since I’ve been working on this project.

Even I wrote in one of my posts that being grateful is just as important as being generous. I do believe that it is, but the fact that others are not always overwhelmingly grateful should not stop us from being generous. Some people may not realize that they are being given a gift, some people are just selfish, some people may not have time, some people don’t know how.

NONE OF THAT MATTERS. (Yet, it does – read on!)

I believe that if you give a gift and it makes another person’s life better in any way, shape or form, then that is thanks enough.

“You have not lived a perfect day, unless you have done something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” -Ruth Smeltzer

Of course, the question begs, is there a time when we should stop giving?

The obvious answer and the one I so desperately want to attain is: Never.

Never is what I strive for, but my brain cannot comprehend the act of giving without being acknowledged. That is for completely selfless people, which I am most certainly not.

For example, I am in a situation where someone I know is in deep financial trouble. I thought
I was being kind and generous in helping her, but now realize that not only was I not being
thanked (which I truly didn’t care about), but I was being taken advantage of. Part of me wants to just keep giving, partly because it’s just easier than fighting. The other part of me is ANGRY! I know that the God-like thing to do is to just keep giving, yet I am fighting that
desire because it is affecting my finances, and I hate hate hate making things about money.
I wanted to believe that by my being generous, it would help this person work harder to pay me back.

Surprise: I was wrong! I don’t want to lose my trust in people, but instances like this make it
very difficult for me to give freely. Here is a person who perhaps does not realize the gift she is being given, who is not saying thank you (quite the opposite, actually), who is not using the gift except to keep things exactly as they are, which benefits… only her. I guess that is part of the whole “selfless” thing that I’m not so good at.

I may not need thanks, but I would like to see/hear of the gift being appreciated/used, not just taken for granted. Otherwise, what’s the point?

What is the point of giving gifts if they are not needed/wanted or even worse, neglected?

My goal here is to give meaningful gifts. Who determines if the gift is meaningful? Is it the financially strapped woman who just waits for things to happen instead of taking charge and
changing something, anything in her life? Or is it me, the giver, who is fed up with seeing her gift unused, and who now feels as if she is almost being stolen from? This one is still up for debate – except I’m not being generous anymore because I can’t afford it!

What if you gave someone a gift, and they neglected to thank you for it – would you be likely to give them another? Life is the same way. In order to attract more of the blessings that life has to offer, you must truly appreciate what you already have. —Ralph Marston

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Week 6 – 28 Days of Dresses

So… it’s February. Last summer, I had a sequence of days – Memorial Day through Independence Day – where I wore a dress or a skirt every day. Because of this:

http://100daysofdresses.blogspot.com/2010/09/day-three-hundred-hundred-sixty-five.html

This blog is from a friend of an acquaintance whose dresses I thought were awesome while stalking her on facebook.

Now, my husband appreciates when I make an effort to look put together, and I have to admit that during that time period last summer I felt better about myself too.

I wanted a bit more of a challenge this time around apparently, so I roped three good friends of mine in to wear a dress or skirt every day in February! (It’s always nice to know you’re not alone in your crazy!)

Just before February began, two of the aforementioned friends and I went thrift shopping to see if we could score any sweet threads for this month. We found a consignment boutique (note: NOT a thrift store!!!) and the owner overheard us discussing our plan. She inquired about our purpose, to which we really had none at the time. From this exchange, we decided to include gift-giving in our scheme!

We are donating dresses from our personal collections to a local women’s shelter! In addition, we are going to visit thrift and consignment stores to see if they would like to sponsor a day where we will wear a dress, feature it on our facebook page, and then it will be donated!

I believe plans for the latter have fallen a bit to the wayside, but we will still be donating dresses from our personal collection. Also, I mean to do this continuous days of dresses again, and next time, I will be better prepared to expand our collection and distribution of gifts! 🙂

On a side note, last week’s post about opportunities to give has opened up a whole new world to me – I am now seeing so many more opportunities to give that I would have simply ignored before. I am loving the change I am seeing in my day-to-day living!

Week 5 – Opportunities to Give

I read a blog post recently about Giving Freely:

http://bemorewithless.com/give-freely-mini-mission/

The author writes about giving whenever we can. This struck me as I recently stopped  giving a HUGE “donation” of sorts because it really wasn’t fitting in my budget, nor was it really helping anyone.

Anyway… sometimes I pass up opportunities to give. Just this week I threw away donations for a paper heart for the kids at school. Thankfully it was waiting in the recycling bin for me to grab it out and donate $1 for each of the kids.

I make a lot of excuses not to give… no time for service, no money to give, being  judgemental about who “deserves” it, etc.

From now on, when an opportunity presents itself to me, I’d love to take it. Even as I write this, I think, what if I don’t have the money, what if I don’t like the cause, what if it seems like a waste of effort?

So,when I say that I’d like to take the opportunity, what I really need is to be prepared for the opportunity.

The opportunity to give.

Can I keep spare change in a place in my car for donations? Yes. Can I keep a water bottle and some healthy snacks on hand to give to the homeless? Yes. Can I set aside time to  schedule gifts of service? Yes.

It’s not just about being given opportunities, it’s about taking advantage of them and using them to the best of your ability. I just never thought about applying that outlook, one I apply to my life constantly, to the act of giving.

What are some other ways you prepare for the opportunity to give?

Week 4: Donating Professional Services as a Gift

In my “about me” section, I mention that I am a freelance graphic designer. Well, one of my companies asked me to donate a logo for a good cause, and I’m doing it!

I’d love to post the logo here and give more details, but it’s not done yet, and if you read further along, you’ll find out why I won’t aggrandize the gift!

I will say that the company I’m designing the logo for was recently featured on Animal Planet!!! YAY!!! This bodes well for my portfolio!

This is the kind of gift I like to give because:

1. The recipient has asked for this specific gift. No over-thinking on this one!

2. It’s a specific gift that I’m capable of producing, and somewhat well, too!

This is not the kind of gift to be given lightly though. I am still wondering why there is guilt associated with publicizing that I’m donating my services.

As the Bible says in Matthew 6:3 – But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

(Note: I think my entire blog might go against this verse. My intentions are not to brag about giving, but to help me give more thoughtfully, and at the same time, thought-LESS-ly.)

In this particular case, I am giving in a selfish way, because I will be using the final product to bolster my resume and reputation.

I am not going to say – “look at what I’m doing, aren’t I great”, but I will say – “I made that!” without mentioning that I did it for free. I don’t think that makes the gift less meaningful, and I would never want anyone to feel that they owe me anything for this type of project. I guess if I am not making the gift itself an issue, and only highlighting my work, that leaves the left-hand out of it… Hmmm…

What was that I wrote about not having to over-think this one? Ha – I am still a work in progress!

Week 3: Giving Gifts to Children

Little Girl had a birthday party to go to this weekend, so I thought this would be a great chance to introduce her to gift-giving. I’m sure none of you are surprised that she wasn’t really interested. It’s very difficult to teach a three-year-old that it’s fun to give a gift when all she hears is that she’s not getting a gift.

I’m not sure if I went about it the wrong way (e.g. trying to make her think about what her friend might like (I’m not sure why I thought that was a good idea…)), or if I was just too persistent in nagging her about it.

Either or both of those is a likelihood.

In the end, I picked out one of the gifts, and she helped me pick out another small gift because it was a pack of something and she got one too. So much for expousing the virtues of gift-giving!

Anyway, here are some guidelines for giving gifts to children for when the grown-ups are too stressed to think clearly.

1. What was your favorite gift from childhood? Mine were always the BIGGEST toys! If you don’t get a big present, at least wrap it in a  big box!

2. As a child, would you prefer to receive one gift, or many gifts? MORE!!! Buy less expensive items, and wrap them individually (in large boxes, of course).

3. WRAP the presents! It is more fun to tear paper off a present than to be able to see what is already sticking out of a bag. Plus, if the gift is in a box it’s like getting TWO presents – whoop whoop!

4. Don’t purchase anything that requires a lot of assembly/or time spent figuring out how to untwist and pull out all the anti-theft wires. Kids want to start playing RIGHT AWAY, don’t make them wait and stress out their parents!

5. Be creative! Give a child something they can make, read, grow, move, etc. (Disclaimer: some people (cough*me*cough) really dislike messy creative toys, like clay in any brand name form and glitter, so please keep the cleaners in mind when selecting a gift – thank you!)

6. Give something that can be used up! Not only will this ensure that you can give the same gift again and again, but it won’t be shoved in a dark space to gather dust!

7. Give a coupon for time spent together, along with a tangible gift, because I’m pretty sure a coupon alone will not get you a enthusiatic thank-you note. For example, set a date to take the child on a hike and give them one of those flashlights they can wear on their heads. Inexpensive, and fun – especially if you buy yourself a head flashlight too!

8. For the parent’s sake, don’t buy anything that makes noise!

9. For the parent’s sake, don’t buy anything that makes noise! (That’s not a typo.)

10. If you choose to buy an obnoxious present, or anything without an off switch, please keep in mind that if you have or plan to have children, these favors will be returned to you and your children!

***NOTE*** Grown-ups, if you are hosting a party for a child where they will receive gifts, please make sure some form of a thank-you note is distributed. In my opinion, being grateful is just as important as being generous!!!

Now it’s your turn! What ideas/guidelines do you have for getting gifts for children?

Week Two: The Gift of Words! (I hope!)

I haven’t mentioned that I have a complete fear of opening presents in front of people.

In my opinion, there is too much expectation to love the gift, and have the appropriate response to show that appreciation.

This issue translates over to gift-giving for me as well.

I want so much for people to love the gift I get them, and if they aren’t crazy excited about it, then I feel like I’ve failed.

This brings us to Week 2: What to get for the person who is hard to shop for?  

My big brother’s birthday is this week. We’ve discussed over the phone a few things he’d like to receive, and he will probably get a shirt or a business card design, or both. But I really want him to be excited about a gift – I don’t want to give a gift simply for the sake of giving.

So I thought, and thought, and thought, about what my brother really might like to receive, or what I really, really, want to give him.

I’m hoping I can do this justice in words.

Thank you, big brother. You have always been here for me.

You stuck up for me when I was in 8th grade and ugh, it was junior high! Kids can be so cruel, and they were at times, to me. But you let them know that I wasn’t to be messed with, because I had backup. Thank you for always keeping me safe.

Thank you for making me laugh, even when I’m not feeling so great. Sometimes, when I have a rough day, only a Bobcat Goldthwait impersonation can pull me through! Image

That or a long car ride in a cherry red Camaro (or whatever kind of car it was – a t-bird maybe?), with the remix version of Billy Idol’s “Catch My Fall” on repeat (or since we’re old now, rewind and play, rewind and play, etc.).

Image

And anytime you want to watch Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, I’m there with popcorn, or a sleeve of saltines.

Thank you for teaching me. I went to most of your hockey games in high school, always wanting to play. And when I finally got my chance in college, you were right there to help me buy equipment, take me to public session, and later on, open hockey. I wouldn’t have done any of that without you. Thank you for supporting me.

Thank you for not getting mad at me for having crushes on most of your friends. Thank you for always letting me tag along with you. Thank you for painting your face black and gold with me to go to a Bruins/Devils game… in New Jersey! Thank you for sitting beside me during the sad times at funerals, and on that stupid yellow flowered couch in our living room when our parents separated. Thank you for not really pile driving me into anything harder than the couch, and for letting me earn a win through a crab hold. Thank you for sharing your toys, and for giving me the toy from the cereal box the time I threatened to run away. Thank you for singing Del Shannon’s “Runaway” with me, even though I sing it better. 😉 Thank you for answering the phone at 4 a.m. and driving an hour to save me while I have the flu, the husband is away and the baby is going to wake up soon! Thank you (and your wife!) for coming early to every family event and helping to clean, cook and watch the kids. Thank you for the multitude of fun times that are so numerous I can’t remember them all.

Thank you for being you, big brother. I hope you have the best birthday ever, only to be topped by next year’s, and the next, to infinity!

Week One: A gift for myself

It may be a cop-out, but I’m still going to give this blog to myself (and to you, gentle readers) for week one. I’m hoping that by the end of the year, any followers will get something from it as well!

This idea came about as I was putting away the wrapping paper, ribbons and bags from Christmas. Sitting on my dining room floor, surrounded by way too much paper, I just wanted to get rid of it all. What better way than to use it for its purpose?! 

Not all of the gifts will be tangible, though. Supporting a family with babysitting, giving money to a good cause, just STOPPING to hang out with a friend – these are all ideas that are in the works.  Also, I want to involve the kids with this so they can see and experience how good it feels to make someone else happy (even better if it gets another toy out of my house).

So, I’ll ask you to participate to get things started. What is one gift that you would like to receive?