The Need to Give

by Caroline Myss -

For the first time in my life I had one of those experiences that I previously have only heard or read about: I went to pay for the two coffees I purchase every Monday morning as I head into my weekly Monday morning meeting. Blair, the man who owns Alchemy (the coffee shop), told me that my coffee had already been “taken care of by a benevolent stranger.”

Even Blair did not know this man who had paid for his own cup of coffee with a $50 bill and then told Blair to “use the rest to treat everyone who comes in here until the money runs out.” Obviously I was one of the people who happened to benefit from the grace of generosity that this man intended to ignite.

There are many expressions of extraordinary grace. 

Generosity does not just strut its stuff in the world of goods, clothing, and charity. These are the easiest expression of generosity because, in many ways, they are the most impersonal. I was very taken by the man who bought my coffee that morning.

I will never meet this man (more than likely), and even on the remote chance that I do meet him, the likelihood that a conversation would come up in which I would discover that he was the one who had left 50 dollars at the Alchemy Coffee Shop on that particular Monday morning.

That this gift was impersonal does not diminish the goodness of heart in the giving by any means.

The impersonal factor presents a very different challenge to us than when we are confronted with acts of personal generosity that actually cost us something (like our time or our patience) or cause us to challenge personal shadow patterns within us that provide us with the rationale we need not to be generous to someone.

We all know what it is like to not want to give to someone, after all. But let’s deal with the hardcore stuff, which comes down to not wanting to be generous to a specific someone. It’s especially a crisis when you think of yourself as a generous individual. Yet every now and again, a person or a situation comes along and something inside of you turns off your flow of this grace of generosity.

If you are really attuned to yourself, you are actually overwhelmed by the effect of blocking the flow of a grace that normally runs through your soul. You feel as if you have just swallowed a bag of stones in an effort to numb highly refined instincts that effortlessly resonate to the vulnerabilities of others.

To consciously withhold any grace generates an implosion in the soul – I am convinced of that. You are choosing to participate in prolonging the suffering of another person when you could have done something – no matter how slight – to have made a positive difference.

I think that is why a choice to withhold grace leaves us feeling so empty, though in the moment we often feel possessed by righteousness, rage, envy, or whatever.

This odd twist in the business of being generous is certainly a curious matter. It would appear that our soul is naturally inclined toward generosity and it falls into a type of anguish when we deny ourselves our inherent capacity to act on that grace.

Another way to say this, perhaps is that we are creatures who are meant to give to each other – and we are meant to receive. In fact, it might be more accurate to say we need to give – we actually need to express our generosity, if only to experience the impact this grace has upon its recipient and how it indeed comes back to us in some magnificent way.

What I’ve learned about the nature of grace is that its signature is one of transformation; that is, a visitation of grace always transforms or moves a person or a situation toward something better.

That visitation comes in more expressions than can ever be enumerated—from a thought that comes into your head that is “out of your usual parameter” of thinking to meeting someone new who happens to be just the right fit for the creative idea you have been working on, to a book falling off the shelf, to a dream that wakes you up, to a car breaking down which, unknown to you, protects you from a drunk driver who would have otherwise hit your car in an upcoming intersection.

I believe that among the many great big huge human fantasies is the fantasy to be cosmically generous. We have it in us to want to change the lives of others in miraculous ways – we really do. Among the many graces that make up the best in us is our inherent need – and I remind you that it truly is a need – to be generous to and with each other.

Think about what you have to give within you that could and really would change someone’s life – and not just now but continuously. 

Truly – list three practical gifts and skills that when shared would change a person’s life forever. Seeing yourself through that lens alone should make you appreciate what a powerful channel for grace you truly are.


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