Givers and Takers

I’ve been thinking about what makes us happy in these dark days. I used to be happy on Halloween when I gave out candy to the little creatures who came to our door, dressed in their colourful costumes and carrying their large candy bags. This year, there were no kids coming to my door — which was good because, anticipating that would be the case, I’d bought no candy to give out. No givers, no takers. It felt a bit sad.

Giving and receiving can create a mutually beneficial transaction that results in a continuum of positive energy. Maya Angelou has said, “When we give cheerfully and receive gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Some people refer to this as the “cycle of giving and receiving.” The sacred wheel.

It’s a cliché to say that it’s better to give than to receive. Often receiving is more difficult, especially when we don’t want whatever we’ve been given. Yet receiving is equally important as giving, and it’s timely to think about what we’re receiving these days.

I agree with our Prime Minister declaring that “Covid sucks.” Yet I’ve heard people speak about “silver linings” and “unanticipated positive outcomes” because of Covid. Many people are experiencing great gratitude. They say things like:

·        My family is enjoying discovering beautiful places close to home

·        We’re appreciating the outdoors and we’ve taken up birdwatching

·        My husband and I are much closer now that we’ve had so much uninterrupted time together

·        The time away from the office has helped me to rethink my priorities.

Some cite such practical achievements as

·        I’ve had time to paint the living room

·        I finally cleared out that storage room.

As Covid-hibernating continues, we may find that such “gifts” offer more meaningful satisfaction than those which come from our more usual pursuits of happiness. I’ve been thinking about Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning and about the distinction he made between finding meaning in life as opposed to seeking happiness. There was a discussion of this in an article in the Atlantic Monthly:

Maybe if we looked for possible benefits in unwanted occurrences, we’d find meaning in them — meaning that would lead us to a sense of purpose.

Frankl, while experiencing brutally inhumane conditions as a prisoner in a Nazi death camp, was able to find an internal strength that allowed him to survive.

“The last of the human freedoms,” he said “is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I’m going to focus on what I can receive from these Covid times, and then try to choose my own way to respond in the best way I can.

As Frankl said “When we are no longer able to change our situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

That message is a challenge to me, and also a gift. One that I’m going to accept gratefully. And I’ll try to give back.

Try to keep that sacred wheel turning.

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