The Gift of Giving
The advantage of coming into this body is that you can give.
Go on giving as long you have the body.
When the body is reduced to dust no one will ask you to give.
O Kabir, give as long as you have this body.
Do good to others, this is the fruit of this life.
Kabir, as quoted in The Labour of Love
Once we visited an orphanage, and there we saw a little girl beaming with joy. Her eyes shined with happiness as she danced to the music that was playing. Looking at her and the other six-year olds playing, we wondered what sort of life they must have had, and what they had done not to deserve the love of a parent. Yet, not one of them expressed any kind of sadness – love and cheerfulness poured out of their eyes. We would never have believed they were orphans. With simple innocence, they hugged us, laughed and danced with us. The happiness that we got by spending time with them was beyond expression. We went there to give our time to play with them but we ended up receiving a greater gift – the gift of love. It was then that we truly understood the saying, “The more you give, the more you receive.”
The saints have taught us to always extend our hand to give – whether it is for seva, family, friends or even strangers. Our Master is the perfect example of a true giver. His unconditional love is the greatest gift we will ever have in this life. He gives his life to us for the simple reason that he loves us – he does not look at our sins; he accepts us for who we are. He awakens us from our deep slumber and tirelessly teaches how we can become one with our Creator. He is constantly giving us his time, his teachings and his love.
There is a well-known saying: “God’s gift to us is life – what we do with this life is our gift to Him.” The saints constantly tell us that the precious human form has been bestowed upon us purely by the Lord’s grace. They remind us not to waste our time, for it is only in this form that we can realize God and return to our true home. None of the other 8,400,000 forms of life have this capacity; we alone have this privilege. The essential question for us then is: Is what we are doing with our lives a gift to Him?
It is very easy to become self-absorbed, especially when we are inundated with things to do. We are so engrossed in our busy schedules that we often forget the simplest virtues of life. The virtue of giving consists of giving a little part of ourselves, which may require effort, time and attention. We have seen in life how deeply satisfying it is when we have made an effort to bring joy into someone else’s life -imagine what a great gift it would be if we could do the same for the Lord.
Offering our life to the Lord as a gift begins with the little things that we might come across every day: taking a little time out from our busy schedule to help someone in need, like an aged family member who might be going through a major illness or a friend who may need a listening ear. In one of the organ donation documentaries which is played frequently at Dera, the narrator makes a powerful statement, “If all can give selflessly, we will feel more complete as human beings and surely closer to God. We are all His children. Let us give God, our Father, a reason to smile.”
When we give a little of ourselves to someone in need, we are given the opportunity to express the love the Master is constantly nurturing in us. Moreover, the saints explain the importance of our attitude when we give – we should give not just as a duty but because it is a privilege to do so and to always give with humility.
Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.
Bible, Matthew 6:3
It is not what we do or how much we do, but how much love we put into the action because that action is our love for God in action.
Mother Teresa, Everything Starts from Prayer
As we journey on the spiritual path, we gradually realize that every moment is a gift from the Lord. But the greatest gift that we have received is the love of our Master, his encouragement and his patience.
As disciples, we have a great responsibility to our Master. Are we happy with everything that He has given us or do we complain to Him when things do not go our way? How do we treat one another – do we truly believe that the Lord resides in everyone’s heart? How do we show our gratitude to the Master for the gift of initiation? The greatest gift we can give to the Lord is sincerely obeying our Master’s instructions. He has given us the circumstances to attend to our duty; he has given us all we need. The Master has told us on many occasions that the best gift that we can ever give him is our meditation. By doing so, we please our Master – what greater gift can there be than that? If we give him our effort, despite our struggles, if we give him our time, despite our busy schedules, if we do our very best as his disciples, then our entire lives would be our gift to him.