When I was a kid and it was my Dad’s birthday, he often gave gifts to us, his 5 kids. The first time he did this, he actually gave each of us a HUNDRED DOLLAR BILL! He didn’t give us “reverse” birthday gifts every year and they were not usually that generous, but overall, my dad was extremely generous.
Dad grew up with little extra money and did well for himself between dentistry and his passion for real estate, but he was always a giver and never stingy with his warmth, care or money. Whether with his kids, the Jewish community, our local Connecticut town, or his alma maters of Tufts and Georgetown, my Dad taught me to be a giver and not to be cheap when it came to people that you love and care about.
Like my Dad, I too have found that when I give and not take, I feel happier. When I feel cranky or find myself picking at my husband or kids, I find that if I put myself aside and focus on them with all of my genuine love and attention, I feel so much better. Even simple acts of kindness can truly make my day—opening the door for someone who is not able, smiling at people walking by or in the grocery store or offering to help someone who is in need. I often seek out “giving opportunities,” moments in other peoples’ lives when I can make a really helpful difference. If I can “touch” lots of people in one day, I know it’s been a great one.
Aside from feeling happier, I find it genuinely exciting to know that my small acts of kindness will have a viral effect. For example, if I do something this afternoon that will help a stranger, he or she may likely pass on an act of kindness and on and on and on. So, in fact what started out as a small act that was really quite easy and pleasurable for me to give, is going to help repair the world! In Judaism, this is called Tikkun Olum—repairing the world–one of the most basic tenets of Judaism.
A few things I have learned about giving:
-Giving to oneself is job #1. We need to take care of ourselves first and foremost and then we can give to others. For me, I have found that I am best off when I start the day with a healthy breakfast, meditation and then yoga or a long walk outside in nature. What is it about nature that is so healing? The never ending sky, the trees and the colors are all reminders that there is something far bigger then us. This helps to put our small lives in perspective and realize that so much is not in our control so why work so hard trying to control everything? I work hard with passion and direction and then let the universe take over. Whatever will be will be, right?
-It always feels so much better to give then to receive. Feeling down, angry upset? Find someone for whom you can do something really helpful and nice and watch how quickly you will start to feel better.
-Giving with authentic kindness and generosity is key. Never give out of resentment or anger, this tends to backfire and only make you more angry.
-Give without expecting anything in return. That’s right! Your reward for giving will be feeling good about yourself and realizing that there is more in this world than you and your wants and needs.
-Giving is not relegated to humans only. Did you know that in Judaism it is a mitzvah (good deed) to walk your dog? Before you kill that mosquito or bug crawling around your house, ask yourself if killing is necessary. Could you gingerly remove it to the outdoors where it really belongs? Isn’t this how you would want to be treated?
-You are a giver when you apply empathy to others. Someone didn’t thank you for something? Don’t be so quick to think they are ungrateful takers. Perhaps they were distracted by something going on that you aren’t aware of. Or maybe they were just given an awful diagnosis. Let’s not be so quick to make judgments and get angry. Empathy goes a very long way.
SCIENTIFIC PROOF–I’m not kidding!
Do you know that it has been scientifically proven that kindness can breed more kindness and is truly good for you? Here are some great articles that will help you become a happier person—a giver.
So, this year, for my birthday, I am sharing this wisdom with you. Try it and watch your world become a happier, kinder and less stressed out place.
Written by Jane Moritz, CEO, Challah Connection, the premiere online kosher gift company specializing in Jewish traditional gifts for Jewish Holiday, Shiva, Jewish Birthday and all Jewish gift giving occasions . “Creating Kvells Since 2002”