The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.
Sometimes we give and nothing comes back to us. Nothing. No thank you note. No phone call. Silence. Just the emptiness that makes us wonder if we did something wrong. And most of the time the silence has nothing to do with us, other than the fact that we have let it take over our own thoughts.
I have sent emails that go unanswered for days and while I am waiting for a response I will endlessly go over and over what I have written to be sure that I haven’t said anything wrong. I don’t mean that I obsess over it all the time, but it’s there in the back of my head taking up space. Cluttering my thinking. And when I do this to myself, I always wonder how I can stop it from happening again. And over time I have found some tools to help, but a few weeks ago I finished reading a book that I honestly think might have solved the problem. Well, maybe not solved the problem (because it will be up to me to put the ideas into action), but it has given me a place to begin. Be a giver.
But I highly recommend you put it on your To Read list, I took lots of notes and found many clear ideas that have already influenced my actions.
When you speak or write, you are, in a sense, a projector showing movies in the minds of others. And the picture you create determine how you and others react.
– David J Schwartz
Basically the book talks about the idea that there are three kinds of people. Givers, Takers, and Matchers. So of course while I was reading it, I kept trying to imagine which one of them I was and if it was the same way other people viewed me. I know there have been times when I have been a Taker (Looking out for number one). But more often than not I think I have been a Matcher. (You scratch my back, I scratch yours.) This seems to be where most people I know gravitate. It appeals to our sense of fair play.
But the Giver is where it get interesting. Over and over in the book there is the sense that giving can change the course of your life. When you act as a Giver, your gift comes back to you in abundance. It may take time, it may not be in ways you could have imagined, but it returns. However, you need to be careful and not go too far. Being completely selfless without worrying about your own wellbeing can be problematic. Sometimes you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others.
A simple example for me happened last week when I put out a blog post and a friend of mine (who wrote an amazing book about gratitude) shared it on Facebook. Seems pretty normal. But he didn’t just share a link. He wrote a short note and included a line from the post as a teaser. And I really appreciated the share. He didnt ask for anything in return. He didnt say, I shared a link for you, would you share one for me.(Matching)
And his kindness exteneded outwards, it made me want to share something. A friend of mine has just finished making a movie and he posted a video on how he created one of the visual effects shots, so I took the time to write up a little something about it and shared that. I know this may seem like a very basic description of how social media works, but backing up a little bit I realized something. I began to think back to all of those times when I wanted someone to call me back or return my email. Most of the time I wanted something from them. What was I giving? Nothing. I was asking. And what did I get? A spinning beach ball in the back of my head.
I realized that when I am giving, I don’t have that loop, I am able to release the gift and move on. But when I am asking for something for myself (taking), or when I am trying to make sure that everything turns out equal (matching), that is when the little voice speaks up and takes over my thoughts and won’t let go until I get resolution. Did I say something wrong? Will I get my fair share? (Spoken like Sally in A Charlie Brown Christmas)
So what I am trying to do in my daily life is practice giving what Wordsworth called those “little unremembered acts of kindness and love”. I am trying to give more and ask less. Listen more and speak less. Love more and fear less.
I don’t have it down yet, but I am trying.