”We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

– Winston Churchill

Right from the time that we were born and conscious of the world around us, we were made habitual of recieving. Instances like these, reinforce this feeling:

  • In childhood, Parents feed us, give us toys to play, books to read, take us around, get us to watch movies on TV and now, give us digital devices like mobile phone and tablets (intent and usage are different, but never mind, the key action is ‘giving’).
  • We go to school, our teachers are all ready to ‘give’. They give us knowledge, wisdom and learnings. They give us some unwanted stuff like homework, scolding and punshiment, but hey  the key action is ‘giving’.
  • Our entire support network is omni-present to give. The maid is ready to clean the spilt milk and give us a fresh bowl. The guard and liftman are there to open the gate and lift for us. The shopkeeper is there to give us free candies, just for our smile (which might not have been intended for him in the first place, but the second time around, we get clever !).
  • As we go from school to college, the act of recieving continues. We attend lectures instead of classes, and professors take up the baton of giving from teachers. Grades and certificates get replaced by scores and degrees. And we are ever-ready for them to be ‘given’.
  • Once we graduate, we look for a job for guess what? For the boss to give us work, project, task, assignment, order, praise, contempt, salary.
  • We, as has been the case since we entered the world, are ready to recieve.
  • And it goes on from one job to another, from one manager to another, from one company to another and so on.
  • But hold on, you say, if my life is all about recieving, when will I start giving? Once I have retired? 

No, of course not, you start giving when you get married. You start giving to your spouse, either in cash or kind, you help each other to build your life. But that’s more like an obligation, isn’t it? You are bound by the definition of marriage and the world expects you to offer help to your partner.

What you give is what you keep with you
And what you keep is what you lose.

Or when you become a parent. Yes, now you are on the other side of the transaction that you first witnessed as a child. And now you are the one feeding milk, giving food, giving toys, etc. But this again, is more of an obligatory act. It’s your child, you are naturally expected to give to them.

And yes, you would become a manager at work someday, where you will in-turn start giving tasks/assignments/projects/ opportunities/salary/praise/criticism to your team member. But yes, as you must have got used to my counter arguments, this again is obligatory in nature. If you want to be a manager, you are expected to do this as part of your duty. Company naturally expects you to do this.

“If you want something, give it.”

~ Deepak Chopra

Then you say, what is ‘un-natural’ giving, what will you have to do, that will make me happy?? Firstly, it’s not un-natural, but its just not so ‘obvious’ thing, that kind of giving. And no, its not about making ME or anyone else happy. Ultimately, its about you making yourself ‘genuinely’ happy.

Its said that money cannot buy happiness. Its actually not true. Money can buy you happiness, if you spend it on others. The joy of just ‘doing things’ for others, can be only felt by experience. If you read about it in a blog-post on osdotme, you might get more charmed by the thoughts of the writer and appreciate them, but that will not give you genuine happiness.

“At the end it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.”

~ Denzel Washington

Lifetime of Giving:

So you say, as a child, how am I supposed to give?, me, this 10kg baby, when I don’t know what’s mine and what’s not. I don’t know whats’s edible and what’s not, how can I be ‘giving‘. And that’s when parents famously told us ‘sharing is caring’. When we recieve something as a child, we feel that we own the statutory rights to it. Forget friends, we are not willing to share with even our siblings. But in reality ‘sharing’ is ‘giving in disguise’. The actual intent of the parent is to help you learn the art of ‘letting go’ and not get attached to the object.

Little do we realise, but as we get older, this act of ‘letting go’ applies to our thoughts and feelings. We harbour feelings about other people, which tend to weight on our minds and drag us down. Unmet love, unmet (even unsaid) expectations, unfulfilled dreams, unkept promises; they all have damaging impact on our mind and without realising it, impacts our performance and well being.

We can give without loving. But we cannot love without giving. In fact, love is nothing unless we do not give it to someone.

~ John Wooden

As a child, you say,  how can I be giving to my parents. All I have is what I got from them. I guess they do not have much use of my toys. Ask that to a parent and they will tell you tales how they treasured the toy car or a wooden block their child gave just before they were heading to office or on a work trip, and reminded them of their child during the trip. Simple acts of helping your parent with their shoes, tie, clothes, office bag, etc. go a long way in fostering love while building your skills at ‘giving’. I remember how my daughter, at age seven, once offerred to give me a massage at the end of a tiring day and I am yet to get such awesome massage again, from anyone.

You give but little when you give of your possession. It is when you give of yourself, that you truly give.

~ Khalil Gibran

Just like your parents tell you sharing is caring, the same applies to them. Ask them to share their work, their worries with you. As you get older, help them on managing house expenses, type out an email as they dictate it to you, work on excel, arrane their files, dust-off their books, etc. are all tasks, easy enough to be done by a child and would not be construed as ‘child labour’ !

And the opportunity to ‘give’ does not end when you become an adult and your parents grow older. The nature of giving also remains the same. It’s still about ‘sharing is caring’. Be a part of their daily routine, share a meal with them, drive them to meet their friend or just be around to listen to them. Very often, once we start earning, we believe the right way to ‘give back’ to our parents, is to shower them with expensive gifts, exotic vacations and cars and houses. But in reality, all these materialistic things, our parents would rather see with their children, than on themselves. As people get into their fifties and see their grown up kids start earning, they are anyway sorted on their own expectations of a branded car or a huge house. They adjust to their own lifestyle and are at peace on the same.

Art of giving 2

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

~ Anne Frank

When to give:

An argument that is often put worth with ‘giving’ is that “I need to have excess or have at least ‘enough’, for me to give.” In reality, one need not wait for that to start giving. Giving from your own plate and eating less, has a mystical joy to it. Our own hunger will soon dissipate with that mere act of kindness. I have felt it and hence can say that with confidence. Thanks to inflation and growing price of everything in our daily life, waiting for that one day, when we will have ‘enough’, is like a mirage in the desert. When you don’t have money, then give in kind. When you do not have anything even in kind to offer, then offer your hand. If you cannot offer your hand, then offer your time. If you cannot even offer your time, then offer your prayers. But Give, you must.

Art of giving 3


Position of a giver and reciever is an interesting one. A giver is always in a position of strength. A reciever is not.

  • As a child, the parents decide what you get to eat or not, most of them time. Yeah, at times, the khichdi was replaced with pasta, but I am sure there is no Indian kid in India who get to eat lot more pasta than khichdi in his childhood.
  • At school, you do not like maths, but you have no choice, the teacher is teaching that, and you need to listen to it.
  • At work, the boss decides what work you get, what salary you get. If you do not like it, you are welcome to leave. That’s why, entrepreneurship is given so much of importance. It’s the ultimate in professional career. You make money from your own money (and later investor’s money), but you decide your own salary and instead of relying on other people for your salary, you become resposible for salary of other people.
  • If you are making a donation, you call the shots on what to donate, how much to donate, who all get the benefits of the donation.

Give what you don’t have and the universe will conspire to provide it for you.

When you can’t do anything, remember, even forgive has a ‘give’ in it.

Art of giving 4

P.S.: Pics in article by Krutik Thakur, a 20 year old photographer based in Mumbai