Give – Take = ?

It is during Easter season each year that I do a self assessment you may want to consider:  Did I give more to the world than I took from it the past 12 months?

My Father, my idol, used to talk conceptually about “our equation with the world”.  It was, in his mind, perhaps the most important measure of a man.  It amounted to asking ourselves “did our lives add to the world, greatly add to the world, or subtract from it?”  In a society where we are generating so many “takers”, this is worth consideration by all of us.

There are many aspects to this, but the most important to me is in our human interactions and our charity, both financial and otherwise.  Do we help our friends each day?  Do we deliver “kindness to strangers”?  Do people walk away from their interactions with us feeling better about themselves and their lives, the same, or worse?

These daily interactions are most important because they are the most frequent and allow us to have the most impact on the largest number of people, particularly those we care most about (but also our Starbucks barista, or bank teller, or boss).  Very important as well is what we do for charity.  Do we donate financially (not everyone can, but many who can do not), do we donate our time, and do we provide our moral support to charities?  These actions all end up on the “give” side of the equation.

Of course we must “take” as well, for our basic needs but also because we are humans and have needs whether positive or negative.  I have found that taking is so much more pleasant to do when I know my actions are heavily weighted on the give side, and that taking at times that I am not giving lead to discouragement for me.

I, and most of you, are the most fortunate of people.  We live in the United States of America, the most prosperous and free country in the world.  I know that I have been given much in my situation from my Country as well as my family and friends, and that in order to be whole with the world, I must– in fact I am obliged– to give far more than I take. I am flawed as we all are relative to this, but I have and always will strive to keep the equation well out of balance in favor of giving.  After all, if people as fortunate as us aren’t generously giving, and there are so many takers (both the kind that are in legitimate need, and those that are selfish), where would the world be headed?

In the end I do believe this is how we will be measured, by ourselves and our fellow citizens and friends.  I remember considering this when my Father passed away a few years ago.  I thought about all that great man had given to the world, in the form of love and advice and support and through charitable donations and leadership.  He was, I thought, a man who gave 1000 times more than he took from this world.  That man, who used to drop me off at school and as I was getting out of the car would say “help someone today”,  is a role model for me and I think for all of us.

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