Friday, December 19, 2008

The Giving Spirit

My family and I have experienced a few surprises this week that have given me pause for reflection.

A few clients have been a little tardy in paying me for one reason or another lately; an accounting mix up here, a transfer error there.

Nothing big or earth shattering. Life goes on in the abundant life we live.

A couple of days ago I was notified of a security compromise across my bank accounts, similar to the massive identify theft I experienced about 4 years ago. All of my cards and accounts have been turned off while they sort it out and since all of my accounts are in the US, I temporarily don't have access to much.

This is a major inconvenience, especially at this time of the year. However, the bank will get it all sorted out, we will laugh it off and life will go on.

This morning the heat in our house died. It's below freezing today so things will cool down a little as the day wears on.

Hmmmmm, I thought - how does one fix that problem when all of your plastic is turned off and your nearest bank branch is 2100 miles away?

Then I got a little frustrated and tossed a question out to no one in particular. Maybe I was asking God.

Why does this happen to my family when we have dedicated so much of our lives helping others, especially going really above and beyond this Christmas?

Then I was reminded of something. For as inconvenient and painful as this is for us, it will be of brief duration.

For many families out there this Christmas, this is a way of life for them.

There is no light at the end of their tunnel, at least as they see it. Or maybe there is a light at the end of their tunnel but in fact, it's a train headed toward them.

As that thought sank into my head, I was ashamed of my frustration.

My frustration evolved into an AHA moment as I realized that this sequence of unusually timed incidents is in fact a lesson for me.

What is the lesson? It is to help me REALLY understand the lives of the wonderful people we have helped this year. It is another reminder of how grateful we should be for everything we have. After all, we could lose it all in a moment.

Our inconvenience of a fleeting duration is a challenging way of life for some people. My challenge will pass - theirs will not without help.

So with that thought in mind, my frustration has evolved into gratitude - gratitude that I have much in my life to be thankful for and gratitude that I can overcome whatever I choose. I have my family and our passion and purpose around helping others - what else do we need?

Which brings me to the final lesson I learned out of all this.

There are a lot of people who need our help out there. No matter how much we do and how much we give, there is always room for a little more, especially at this time of year.

So if you will excuse me, I will light the gas fireplace to keep my family warm and I will find someone who REALLY needs help.

Maybe there is someone in your neighborhood who could use a little help as well.

To you and yours for a blessed holiday season, I extend deepest gratitude and thanks to all of you and all the things that you do. I wish you every success for 2009.

Yours in service and servanthood.



  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am sorry to hear about your challenges, but it is funny in a way: reminder to us all. Prior to my current company, I was laid off twice in M&A and felt the pain that many do today. My little way to help is that we use to give items away instead of Goodwill and I try to pay the toll for the person behind when possible.

    I would like to share this passage from a Baha`i writing:

    The more difficulties one sees in the world, the more perfect it becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground, the more fertile it becomes, the more you cut the branches of a tree, the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire, the poren it becomes. The more you sharpen the steal by grinding, the better it cuts. Therefore, the more sorrow one sees the more perfect one becomes. That is why in all the tomes the Prophets of God have had tribulations and difficulties to withstand. The more often the captain is in the tempest and difficult sailing, the better his knowledge becomes. Therefore, I am happy that you have many sorrows, strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows..
    -Abdu`l-Baha, West vol 14; 1923

  2. Hey Keith,

    Great wisdom, my friend. I know Freecycle well - I was the first moderator for the Freecycle group in Newfoundland and Labrador about 5 years ago.

    The Baha'i writing is powerful. Thank you for sharing it. I know it will resonate with others as well!

    Best wishes to you, your wife and your newest family member for a wonderful holiday, my friend.


  3. Harry:
    It's interesting that we are going through a similar financial crisis this holiday season leaving us without many of the "amenities" of Christmas. But what we have been left with is the beauty and purity of a Christmas without commercial trappings. I think it's going to be the best Christmas ever.

  4. Hey Gary,

    I think the greatest thing I have been guilty of is buying whacks of stuff every year for the family, looking at it on Christmas morning and saying "that's too obscene - let's not do that next year" and then repeating the process year after year.

    As I noted, this event is of extremely short duration for me but the message to me, loud and clear, is "You keep saying you are going to do better next year and you don't - so here's a little help keeping your promise to yourself".

    After hearing the story of the 3 little children who died on Bell Island this morning, my message to the universe is "Ok - I am listening, this time - now you REALLY have my attention".

    I continue to explore these lessons so that the opportunity to learn is not lost.

    God bless you and Denise this Christmas. If we can help in any way, please reach out to me.


  5. Gary,

    If I may add one thing, my friend.

    You have given unselfishly to others this Christmas season. You participated with us during our Christmas gift drive for battered women and their children.

    You and some other folks who helped us with this drive have demonstrated the true gift of Christmas - giving at personal sacrifice. Some gave knowing that by doing so, they would have no money to buy things for themselves.

    To you and others who I have worked with this year who sacrificed things for themselves so that they could give to others, I thank you with all my heart.

    Those who give unselfishly will be rewarded.

    As I said earlier, if there is anything we can do for you and Denise, please let me know.

    I agree with you - my family is also headed towards the greatest Christmas we have ever experienced.

    Take care and thank YOU for everything that you do, Gary.