People in Need:
Taking Our Turn to Give
When we see a person in need, we may want to give them something as a way of helping them, but if we give without taking the time to see who they really are, honoring that most of all, our gift is nowhere near as powerful as it could be. We may want to give a homeless person a sandwich, for example, but if we give it without also taking a moment to look the person in the eye, making authentic contact, we rob them of the experience of being human.
Being in a position of need leaves a lot of people feeling vulnerable and full of self-doubt. The greatest gift we can give is to meet people in need without judgment and with the awareness that we are not superior to them simply because we are not currently in their position. If we take the long view, we can see that we all began life in need of a lot of care and attention, and many of us end life in the same way. Giving and receiving are companion energies that take turns throughout our lives, and we all get a chance to be on both sides of the exchange from time to time.
It’s important to be aware of our own tendency to give from a desire to feel good about ourselves, rather than from an acknowledgement of our connection to all people. Letting go of our self-importance allows us to see that, regardless of appearances, we are all givers and receivers. When we are in the position of the giver, we honor those we are helping when we remember the many people who have helped us. Then we can look the person we are helping in the eye, aware that we are making contact with a human being who is our equal. ~ Madyson Taylor, Daily Om
In these times, it is rare that we don’t pass a person on the road, holding a sign requesting help. My initial reaction is one of sadness, and invariably, I fish around my purse to extract a dollar or two. When I hand it to them, I force myself to look them in the face and say “God bless you.” Afterwards, I drive away hoping that I’ve done some good and not contributed to a drug or alcohol addiction. Yet, who am I to assume the worse about this person. Without thinking about it or even intending to, I’ve done much worse — passed judgment on this person without knowing his or her story and what brought them to that place.
As I wrote the above paragraph, I realized that beyond the judging, I did something else for which I’m not proud. Why do I have to “force” myself to look into the person’s face and not their eyes? (As an initial matter, I have to say that I, too, believe that we are each connected.) Anyway, after giving it some thought, I realize that fear is at the root of the question. It is the fear wrought by the realization that “but for the grace of God, go I.” In his or her eyes, I would see a person just like me, and that is a chilling thought. This person, reduced to standing on the street corner, begging for handouts, is me.
As the article states, we are all givers and receivers, for it is the extremely rare person who can claim that they’ve never received help of some kind. For the rest of us, we need only consider our day to recognize the unspoken “gifts” that we’ve received. A receiver need not succumb to standing on a street corner for pennies. It happens in myriad ways. Be it the person holding the subway door for you, picking up the book that you dropped, or offering you a seat at the crowded restaurant, you’ve been a receiver.
At the other spectrum, anytime we are given the chance to help another person, we are giving in a most special way — of ourselves. Be it a cause, a social ill, or to a specific person, no “gift” is too small, for it is the little things that can make all the difference. Often, we meet circumstances that seem too weighty a problem for us to affect. Since we believe that our “gift” won’t matter, we choose to do nothing. The thing is that change is made incrementally, by scores of givers whose “gifts” band together to make it happen.
All in all, we are all receivers and givers. Life is a mystery and we never know on which side we will land. Wherever we find ourselves, respond with gratitude and grace, for we never know when the winds will shift.