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After we are born, we develop the basic flaw of self-centeredness. We think the world revolves around us and everyone else is here to make us comfortable and happy.
First, we get all our needs taken care of and then we start getting things from these people.
As we grow older we not only see all the things other people have, but see and hear ads every day that tell us we should have more and that we deserve it. Gimmee, gimmee, gimmee!
The more we follow the selfish inclinations of our human nature, the more we come up empty.
All those things that the world tells us we should be constantly seeking – pleasure, fun, luxury, power, status – never lead to true joy and fulfillment.
Life actually works in the opposite manner. We find real joy and fulfillment, not in getting, but in giving; not in being served, but in service; and not in taking, but in contributing.
Learning to overcome our selfish nature is one of the hardest lessons of life. But we need to learn the lesson and meet the challenge if we want to know what it feels like to be fully human and to know that our lives matter for something other than pleasing ourselves.
The real paradox is that our reward in life will always be in direct proportion to what we contribute to life.
I’d like you to consider four types of giving:
This is the easiest of the four types of giving. It usually doesn’t require us to make a sacrifice, but it can be of great benefit to others. Clothing, furniture, food, toys, tools, and even cars are on this list.
Most of the time we’re really just clearing out closets or rooms of unneeded things, but they can be of great value to people who have little. There are hundreds of charitable organizations that will not only be happy to accept our unwanted goods. They will often come and pick them up.
Do yourselves and others a favor. Unclutter your homes and clean out your closets regularly. There are people out there who would treasure some of your stuff.
Several years ago one of my parishioners was told by his doctor that he would need major surgery if he wanted to stick around for a while. He was also told that a lot of blood would be needed and that he should ask friends and family to donate to a blood center in his name.
When he asked me to donate, something I had never done before, my first thought was, “I don’t like blood and I dislike needles even more.” But this was a dear friend, and I knew he would do the same for me. So I gave blood.
It turned out to be a far less painful experience than I had expected. I didn’t watch the needle go in or watch the blood come out. I relaxed in a comfortable lounger in the company of a lot of nice people, enjoyed the moment and was even rewarded with some cookies and juice when it was all over.
The best part was the good feeling I had while leaving. It also increased my awareness of just how much blood is needed daily, so I signed up to become a regular. I share this story, not to make myself look like a hero, but to encourage you to consider giving blood regularly.
There will always be someone who needs money more than we do, and we have a moral responsibility to help when we can.
I’m not suggesting that we be foolish and give our money away indiscriminately, but that we look for opportunities to help someone with less. It always benefits both the receiver and the giver.
Giving away money is more difficult than giving away things we don’t want any longer. Few people have money that they no longer want. Giving away money is more difficult than giving blood because the money won’t automatically replenish itself like blood does.
Giving away things and giving away blood doesn’t cost a cent. Giving away money can be downright expensive. The real giving of money comes from the heart.
It’s easy to understand what it means to give things, blood or money to other people, and we’re just as clear on how to give them. But giving of ourselves isn’t quite so specific. What does it mean and how do we go about it?
Giving of ourselves means doing something that helps other people.
It can be physical, emotional, social or spiritual help.
This kind of help is purely altruistic, has no self-serving motives and expects nothing in return. It comes only from the goodness in our hearts.
We give of ourselves because we know what a blessing it is to be helped by others. We give of ourselves because people are in need.
We give of ourselves because we’re dependent upon one another. And we give of ourselves because it makes us feel more fully human.
Bob Mueller is the assistant vice president of mission & stewardship at Hosparus. To read previous columns, visit www.BobMueller.org. The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.