March 4, 2013

About giving and receiving

I have an aunt who always rejects every gift people want to send her. Her excuse is that she doesn't want to burden people and 'owe' people anything. At the first glance, it looks like independence, but as I see it, she's blocking people's happiness.

I, on the other hand, as a backpacker with a decent level of shamelessness, received a lot of kindness (and gifts) from people. When I went backpacking /couchsurfing, I received free bed, free food, sometimes gifts, I got a free huge jar of honey from a bee farm owner in east Europe, a box of strawberries in a hot summer day in Paris, a beautiful shawl in a cold winter night in Seoul, expensive concert tickets, amusement park entrance tickets from people I didn't even know. I call them beautiful strangers :) Once I even got a free express train ride from Berlin to Stuttgart (which would cost me around 100 Euro). Well, I'm cheap, hehe, so I smiled and accepted everything. It's not that I wanted to extort any benefits from others, it's because I know the fact that it's nice to give. I really think we have a natural necessity to give.. Giving brings us happiness and I want the givers to be happy by accepting their kindness.

I believe that we are all somehow connected in a circle. Yes, I owe the beautiful strangers their kindness, thats why I'll pay it forward to other beautiful strangers. Ironic as it is, the more I received, the more I can give.A Parisian strawberry seller who gave me a box of fresh strawberries in a hot summer day prompted me to give my snickers bar to a stranger I saw crying in a berliner subway. The smile on her teary face warmed the dim subway compartment. The free dinners I received made me buy a cheese burger for a hungry old homeless man. The free tickets I got made me give away my unused subway tickets to strangers wanting to buy their tickets at the machines.And it goes on in the circle.

Once I organized a donation for an orphanage, I literally asked my friends to give, pestering them and extorting money from them. And they smiled, hugged me and said "Thank you for giving me a chance to give." It made me realize, we DO have a necessity to be kind and give.As I see it, the most depressed people are those who are self centered and always wanting to receive/take.

A while ago, I read a story about Dalai Lama when he was still in Tibet. He used to travel to poor villages, accompanied sometimes by international journalists. During his travels, he always received gifts from people. Once he was in a very poor village, and an old lady, wearing torn off clothes gave him a skirt. The american journalist burst out in anger and told him,"You live in a golden palace, why did you receive this gift from this poor old lady who's in a much worse condition than yours? You preached about compassion and kindness, and what is this??"
Dalai Lama answered,"Yes, But that woman needed to give me the skirt more than she needed to wear it."

I used to refuse my mom's gifts as she likes to shower me with expensive things: diamonds, pearls, branded bags, etc, which I don't need. But then I thought to myself, maybe this is how she shows her love to me. So a few weeks ago, when she bought me a Tiffany bracelet, I smiled, hugged her and said thank you. 

In our society, we were always taught that we should give and not receive. But have we ever thought of enabling people to give? Making them feel happy by receiving their gifts, accommodating their needs, instead of our own ego/ 'independence'? 

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