Friday, April 29, 2011

The Etiquette of Giving of One's Self

Easter weekend has arrived! For many people this is an important religious holiday where the resurrection of Christ is celebrated. For others who do not officially recognize this day as religiously significant, the symbolic meaning of this time of year is universally understood. It is spring and evidence of rebirth and rejuvenation abounds. Nature's brilliant palette begins to burst forth; the air is refreshed with the return of warmer weather; and we are ready to emerge from the winter months with renewed energy.

Traditionally Easter is a holiday at which time gifts are exchanged. We give flowers, candies, chocolates and colorful eggs. A large meal shared with our closest friends and family often caps off the day. When we enjoy such gatherings we are reminded of the deep connections we share with one another. We take this time also to include people who are new to town and might not have a place to share a special meal. We express our feelings of gratitude, joy and love through the exchange of greeting cards and toasts around the dinner table.

I found myself surrounded by some very close friends recently and am looking forward to spending Easter this year with old friends and family members whom I see far too infrequently. I began thinking about why these people mean so much to me and why I decided to drive for 12 hours to be with some of them. The common denominator which came to mind was generosity. Some people have given thoughtful gifts; some have been open minded and available to listen at a moment's notice; others have displayed a generosity of spirit. I have been the lucky recipient of their gifts; however, I have also been equally as uplifted by watching the consistency of their generosity with everyone else in their lives. These special people are some of my mentors and that justifies the drive.

There are many different interpretations of generosity. However we define it, practicing it in whatever way we can makes us feel good. Perhaps we enjoy volunteering our time visiting our friends who are housebound for whatever reason. We could offer to go grocery shopping, recycle their bottles and cans, rake their leaves, or pick up their mail. These simple acts are a very effective way to show our love, appreciation, and respect for one another. Taking people for a ride in your car on a bright sunny day is another act of kindness that is usually appreciated. It affords time for people to get some sunshine and fresh air, see new sites, and engage in conversation. People who live alone love these short day trips.

Children also enjoy and benefit from any time we can share with them. We are their teachers and they regards much of what we do as acceptable and correct. Being a role model for a child is a big responsibility. We are often role models without knowing it and our behavior is always under someone's watchful gaze. How many time have you ever been 'busted' doing something you might regret? In our minds we experience a little disappointment because we know we've done something that we would not want children to interpret as okay behavior.

One of the things people tend to remember the most are the 'firsts' in their lives: the first time they rode their bike without training wheels; their first great sports accomplishment; their first kiss; losing their first close friend or pet. The people who are with them during these meaningful times can be significant during celebrations and times of grief. Being empathetic to another person's situation is an act of generosity which is a true gift. Our willingness to sit with someone, to hug someone, to cry tears of sorrow and to scream cheers of joy is perhaps the most meaningful way we can show our friendship and generosity.

Being aware of how much we share our generosity is important. In a world where gratitude can be sadly lacking, looking in the mirror and knowing that we have put someone else's needs and feelings ahead of our own is very fertile ground for gratitude. We too often forget to acknowledge our own good fortune found in the opportunities we have to perform random acts of kindness; to drop something we're doing to help someone with an urgent problem; or to pick up the telephone to check in with a relative or friend. Take a moment to think of all the ways you are already generous. It might surprise you and encourage you to do even more. You'll feel even better about yourself and the world will be a better place.

Maybe this is the time of year to begin fulfilling that New Years resolution of being a better friend, staying in closer touch with family, and volunteering in your community. These are all generous acts which give us more respect for ourselves for for others.