The year end holiday festivities are upon us, and you always hear that ‘Christmas is a time for giving’, and of course because you have to exchange gifts, lots of giving goes on… But I always think it’s a little sad that the idea of St. Nick giving to those who had nothing to cheer their hearts (not because they got stuff, but because someone showed caring and compassion) has become something that is more materialistic.
Don’t get me wrong, I think gift giving is fantastic, I just usually prefer to do it when I feel like it or find the right thing for a person…
But I feel to truly be giving in the sense of the word that inspired the first Christmas, a lot of change has to happen, not only in society but in the heart of individuals. It seems this is very difficult for most of us, especially in the west as we live in a selfish society. We’re absorbed with ourselves, and taught from an early age that we need to not only do things that will benefit ourselves, but that everything we need in life comes from us (A rapidly growing and dangerous new age idea that seems to be causing a generation of confused ego obsessed individuals).
This has caused a lot of unhappiness, as it has been scientifically proven that giving makes one happier than being selfish (Youngsteadt). Luckily people are starting to learn about these ideas, and how dangerous ego is to happiness, and I hope it creates a shift from the unhealthy attitude that has spread the world in recent generations.
China and other countries in Asia seem to think differently about this. That is because they are more of a culture of service. They’re used to serving, giving and and working hard, and it is just a way of life that has been learned from a young age.
So then if we want to define giving, we need to establish the true meaning of giving, because just giving money to help those who are in need is a temporary band-aid fix, and that has been proven for over 30 years with the results of the persistent problems in Africa as well as North America that have been fed large amounts of money. Giving in this way doesn’t solve the root of the problem of need. I believe the root of the problem of need is due to greed that creates an imbalance. I believe that this tendency towards greed is eliminated by becoming an individual of service to humanity in ones daily life.
In defining giving then, the solution to the root of the problem comes back to the attitudes of individuals. In order to truly be giving people, and not just at a certain time of the year, at a young age, people need to get used to the idea of being of service to others, to society, to humanity, by accepting that it is a normal part of their life.
One of the few organization I know that seems to be truly helping to do this through effective methods that will have long term results worldwide is the Baha’i communities around the world, especially in the last 10 years. Since the 1970′s, when they proved such programs effective in Columbia, Baha’i's have committed to this idea of giving by becoming of service, starting with the needs of their local community. Because the numbers are still small, the results are subtle, but still effective.
There are countless examples of the effect of giving through service in this way, here are a few:
Systematic service training showing results worldwide
Ugandand project doesn’t stop at literacy
Baha’i Youth program in Italy gives hope
So this year, if you really, truly want to give, become an individual of service, and give the ultimate gift of all! Join one of the many Baha’i programs that are training individuals to do this in your local neighborhood.
It is likely to make you feel happier, and make your life feel more meaningful!
I decided to 9 years ago, and it is been a very fulfilling and enlightening experience for me.
I hope this post hasn’t come across as overly idealistic or preachy, but when you’ve seen real solutions to the problems of the world first hand, it’s hard not to share them.
Thanks for reading, and have a great holiday season!