Derek, as the holiday season approaches, I find myself facing the fact that I won't be able to give presents like I always have in previous years, because my personal finance has been severely impacted by the economy. How can I follow my intent to give generously to others when I don't have the means to do so? Is there a teaching in the Tao that can help me?
The Tao focuses on the essence of giving rather than the monetary value of the gift. Often, in our consumer society, we feel as if spending money on presents makes giving meaningful, but nothing can be further from the truth. We forget that we all have the ability to give presents that carry no price tags, and yet possess value beyond price.
As the economy worsens, it becomes particularly important for us to remind ourselves of this truth. Consider the following priceless presents – which ones will you give?
- The gift of smile. When you greet people, why not give them a smile from the heart? It takes no work at all to transform an indifferent expression to something that will make someone's day a little brighter.
- The gift of connection. Maintain eye contact when you speak with others. This is a simple decision that requires little effort, and yet it can make a huge difference in your communication.
- The gift of kindness. A sincere expression of gratitude, encouragement or praise may not seem like much, but its impact on another soul can go well beyond your expectations.
- The gift of assistance. Sometimes, all it takes is a helping hand, or just the offer to help. It may be holding the door open for someone or volunteering in your community. Even a small gesture of aid can make all the difference in the world, not only to the people you help, but also to you.
- The gift of empathy. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. What must they be thinking? What must they be feeling? This can be a very powerful gift, because so often people want nothing more than to be understood.
- The gift of time. Consider spending quality time with friends and loved ones. For instance, rather than giving kids toys, gadgets or video games, make a real effort to be with them. Tell stories; build something together; create memories to last for a lifetime - this gift has a value that is infinitely greater than any material present!
The Tao teaches that you already have everything you need. In this case, it means you already have an unlimited supply of the greatest presents to give to others. Wouldn't it be a terrible waste to not make use of them? As the holiday season approaches, let us all focus on this teaching – the Tao of Giving.