My mother opened the issue up a few days ago saying, “…it’s quite embarrassing that you’re still the one giving even on your birthday.” I told her I changed my philosophy during the last few years, pledging to my family I’ll be the one to give presents, thereby reversing the process. That was supposed to be a joke intended for my wife and kids, which turned out to be the regular occurrence in the last few years, which turned out to be the preferred arrangement by everyone, which is fine with me. Well, I wouldn’t say giving is exactly better than receiving, having even personal doubts about it from time to time, especially during times of financial distress, when my wallet starts screaming for a refill, which happens most of the time. But it is definitely an alternative, which I suppose could benefit someone who’s really “maturing” (read: aging) all these years, at least in terms of introspection.
I turned 43 today, and I intend to continue this newly-discovered family tradition. I already gave my wife and kids their presents as promised: small, trivial things which are not much really, and promised them of another family tour in the summer. These may not be much, but they serve to ensure the spirit of giving stays with me. Reckon it could even provide a good example for my kids, charity begins at home anyway.
I may not be giving much, and I know that most of the time it’s for my wife and kids. Even though, I still feel a kind of high everytime I do it. It gives a sense of fulfillment, even achievement. And I find inspiration in stories I read. Most notable is the story of selflessness of a Japanese boy during the time when tsunami struck his country more than a year ago. The story goes like this:
In the aftermath of the tsunami, when throngs of people start congregating at relief centers, a Japanese cop of Vietnamese origin saw a young Japanese boy at the end of a long queue of weary and hungry people waiting for their turn in the food ration. The community volunteers by then are preparing the food from various NGOs, starting to divide them as there’s not enough for the number of people waiting in the queue. The cop walked to the boy and started a conversation with him. He found out that the boy lost his family in the disaster, and has nowhere to go until he was rescued and brought to the center. The boy’s story cut deep into the cop’s emotions, and as he looks into the hungry child, he started opening his small satchel, offering his food ration to the boy, thinking he already had a light snack a few hours back anyway. What happened next surprised him. The boy, after accepting the food from the cop, walked to the beginning of the queue and placed the food onto the table. The cop, bewildered by the boy’s action, asked why he did that. The boy’s answer made him burst into tears.
The boy said: ‘If I eat the food by myself, I will be the only one who’ll benefit. But if I place it there (on the table), then it will be shared with everyone and more can partake of it.’
This act of selflessness in times of hopelessness and adversity never fails to move me everytime I read it. And I keep saying to myself: if a young boy can sacrifice and practice the gift of giving, why wouldn’t I?
I guess I just need to sacrifice a bit more and expand it.