The Gift That Moves

The holiday season can be a wonderful and magical time for many. But for some, it is also a time of loneliness, anxiety and depression. Given the hard economic times we are living through, many are struggling to make ends meet, to make mortgage payments or to pay bills. When money is tight, it's sometimes hard to feel generous. It's easy to become preoccupied with your problems. But you do not need a lot of money or material things to feel generous. It's possible to awaken to your own natural generosity by working with what you already have. A common theme that runs through many folks stories the world over is the value of the gift and how it is to be appreciated. If something is a gift, it must move. If it is possessed or taken out of circulation it is no longer a gift. When the gift is not used it becomes lost, but when it is passed along, it  grows in abundance. It is the miracle of Christ and the loaves of bread recounted in the Gospel of John. One of the most common gifts in many cultures is in fact food, because it is consumed. The gift moves when it is consumed and used up. When people hold on to gifts in folk tales, things don't go well. So indigenous people often distinguish between gifts and capital. One person's gift must not be another's capital.

If someone has a lot of money, that does not make them wealthy. If they hoard it, they will most likely be miserable. On the other hand, if you have very little, but you use what you have to help others then your gifts give rise to wealth and abundance. When you bake a loaf of bread and deliver it to your neighbor you are helping to enrich and strengthen your community.

We have a saying in Zen that the gift itself, the one giving it and the one receiving it are all empty. What we mean by that is that for the gift to move, you must give it freely without conditions. If you are expecting some kind of reward or acknowledgment, then your gift has strings attached to it, and it will not expand. But even if your gift is very small, if it is given freely and unconditionally, it can grow and multiply.

In her book, "The Soul of Money", Lynne Twist argues that we have many assumptions and myths of scarcity around how we view money and wealth. "What you appreciate" she says, "appreciates". "Collaboration and reciprocity are natural, and yet in the world we inhabit, competition and fear of scarcity often block us from seeing these ways of being with one another."

There are many ways you can touch your own natural generosity. You can give of your time and energy for a local non-profit or community organization. You can share your knowledge and skills with others by tutoring them. If you are with someone who is scared and anxious, giving "no fear" and your kind attention and presence is a form of giving. So there are many ways to give during this holiday season. You may still buy gifts online or in department stores, but don't forget the essential nature of gifts–they must move. When you collaborate and work together with others building and nurturing trust and respect, you can experience the rich source of fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from passing the gift along.

Robert Althouse