I may have borrowed the title of today’s blog from a sentiment expressed by someone pretty famous, like Jesus, (according to Luke 6.38) so apologies for being so unoriginal. But without wanting to be preachy, such a truth rings true when you think in yin yang terms too, and like a good (or do-my-best) Christian and self-taught student of yin yang philosophy I’m trying to follow it. Of course Jesus is also reported to have said ‘It is better to give than receive’ (Acts 20.35). It seems the common part is giving, freely, whole-heartedly. The receiving, I reckon, will look after itself.
But it’s hard to ‘compete’ in the giving stakes with our children’s Chinese teacher.
She comes once a week for Mandarin lessons and not a week has passed when she hasn’t given us something – little presents for the kids, some food or gifts for us. I could, rather ungratefully and ungenerously say, that it’s embarrassing. She is SO magnanimous that she puts me to shame, which is the last thing I’m sure she’d want to do. There now I feel bad I’ve even said anything (but I’m 100% sure she’s NOT reading this).
I know it’s the Chinese (she is actually Taiwanese) way – that there is the age-old Asian custom of preserving face – to arrive empty-handed would be to lose face with your host. But I would have thought it would only apply when you are a guest being given hospitality or visiting from time to time – not weekly for a lesson.
And then this lovely lady invited us to Chinese lunch, which we couldn’t (and didn’t want to) refuse, only we knew she would insist on paying. We were hoping it would be yum cha, and that we could minimise the cost by making it a light meal but she had pre-ordered nothing less than Peking Duck! DELICIOUS.
We were able to politely eschew a bottle of wine in lieu of green tea, but even then she insisted it be the special variety! Don’t get me wrong, the lunch was lovely, the company excellent, just leaving without putting our hands in our pockets was a little unpalatable.
Then a couple of weeks later one of the kids or Mr Yang let slip that it was my birthday, and of course this supremely thoughtful woman brought me a present – an anti-ageing cream (well I was turning 45!) and get this – one of the ingredients is gold flakes – I kid you not.
(I should say that I’m pretty sure her husband’s family business involves selling beauty products – it’s duty free, she’d told me, lest I feel even more awkward in receiving it. I suspect the duck lunch may have also been some sort of special deal with the restaurateur, in the Chinese way).
But still, does her giving know no bounds?
I haven’t been able to reciprocate in any real sense of the word (because I certainly don’t want to ‘up’ the generosity ante) – we gave her a bunch of flowers when she had the kids at her house for a half-day holiday program and a small gift in thanks for the beautiful lunch. We’ve also shared a simple meal of my home-made dumplings. All sounding pretty paltry in comparison, but I don’t want the giving to spiral out of control, so to speak.
However all her generosity has got me thinking – apart from appreciating the wonderful role model to our kids (who we are trying to teach that it is better to give than receive), her sheer munificence has me contemplating how I could be giving more. I should be giving more.
is are the bottle(s) of wine that I could (should) eschew in order to give, not a present to our children’s Mandarin teacher, but a donation to a worthwhile charity. I know my wine ‘budget’ adds up and I could do much more good with it than drinking it.
We used to have a more regular and focused giving program, but along the way with mounting expenses and falling investments we let a long-running child sponsorship lapse when our sponsor child aged out of the program, and we stopped another regular donation we’d been giving for several years. We still donate to charities, but I have to be honest and say not as much. And I don’t feel good about it.
And then there’s my time that used to go towards organising fundraisers once or twice a year – fundraising videos, parties in aid of surgery for Chinese orphans, and regular hours spent over a few years putting together an adoption magazine and assisting with other charity initiatives.
I’ve used (perhaps valid) excuses of time and money to stop being as generous as I could be – there are little things, but do they add up? I’ve thought (read justified) to myself that my family and friends deplete most of what I feel I can give right now. Which simply means I could be much more Christian-like and in tune with yin yang philosophy that would have it that giving and receiving are natural complements to each other – it is not about balancing them out equally, but finding an equilibrium.
I don’t think it counts so much how much you give, more that it’s heartfelt and genuine, without any strings attached and without seeking glory or anything in return.
Although apparently there is now scientific proof that giving really is better for you than receiving according to research published by the American Psychological Society.
So just give I reckon (Oh and I reckon for-giving is just as important too – sometimes forgiveness is the best gift).
What if giving was more than the reason for the (Christmas) season? What if giving was the reason for living?
What if we just gave – Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh (both smelly tree saps, in ancient times equal by weight value to gold) if you follow some wise guys, or the more simple gift of music, the priceless gift of our time?
What if we always gave the precious gift of receiving what we are given, graciously, gratefully?
Grateful to link up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.