“Let the person I serve express his thanks according to his own bringing up and his sense of humor.”
–Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa), SANTEE SIOUX
This intriguing quote landed in my inbox the other day and brought up some interesting thoughts…we all know that we’re supposed to give without strings attached and without desiring thanks. And yet it’s human nature to want or even need thanks and recognition. So how do you deal with giving and with your feelings when you don’t get the response you were expecting or wanting? Are you angry? Hurt? Sulky?
Of course, it’s only natural to react in any of these ways. But these negative emotions are tripwires to alert us to the fact that we have issues that need to be dealt with – that we need to let go of our expectations and learn to give for the sake of what it does for us, not what it does for the other person.
An even better alternative is to put yourself in their place, with their issues and their pride. How might you respond to needing or receiving help? How might it make you feel to have to ask, and how might that color your response? Often, receiving help hurts far more than being in the situation that requires us to ask for it because our culture is founded on the concepts of self-sufficiency and individual strength, and because accepting help is often associated with failure, laziness or inferiority. How can you use this knowledge to improve the giving process, to make those you serve feel better about their situation as receivers?
Here’s a thought: In Buddhist areas of the world, the local monks often beg for the food that they eat, not because they can’t afford to buy it but because they know that begging (receiving help) allows those who give a chance to improve their karma and work on the life lessons they need to master in order to move forward on the wheel of life. They beg out of service to those around them (as well as for their own lessons in humility and sacrifice). The next time you give help in any form, why not thank the receiver for giving you the opportunity to learn compassion and to practice humility and generosity? Let them know that their position as receiver is as valuable as that of giver, if not more so, since it is by far the harder position to be in. Or, if you are giving anonymously, consider leaving an unsigned note to that effect.
Those who receive your help are giving you a wonderful gift of the soul, but are rarely aware of their own generosity. Make sure you fully honor their gift when presenting your own.