Spirituality of Giving
by Joan Doyle
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many years I journeyed with a prisoner, a lifer who was from Vietnam
and had no relatives in this country. I became family for him.
Eventually, he got transferred from the Maritimes to Vancouver
where he got the opportunity to go before the parole board. He
was granted parole.
after his release, he went downtown looking for work. He stopped
at a pay-phone to make a call and left his wallet with all his
money, his release papers, everything that was precious to him,
at the public telephone. He didn't realize he had lost his wallet
until he returned to the halfway house and discovered that his
wallet had made it home ahead of him. Someone had found it and
brought it back with everything intact. Later he shared with me
that this gift of kindness from a stranger had helped to heal
his broken life. It had given him courage and hope.
couple of months later he experienced his first Christmas ‘outside'
the prison walls. I was interested to know how Christmas had been
for him. He told me he had volunteered to spend the whole day
in the local soup kitchen serving meals. He wanted to give back
to society some of his time and energy on this special day.
this friend of mine experienced, there is healing in the act of
giving. The beautiful thing about giving is that the healing,
the joy, and the peace flows equally from giver to receiver, from
receiver to giver. What is it that we have not received? As Meister
Eckhart has written, "If the only prayer we ever said was,
"Thank you" that would be sufficient."
spirituality of giving is the practice of generosity built on
the belief that there is an abundance of goodness to draw from.
All of creation is an example of such abundance and generosity.
We have been gifted by creation with more than we will ever need.
Only when we waste and/or destroy this abundance do we experience
scarcity. What we give out comes back to us twofold. If we give
back to the Earth love and respect, we will reap the benefit of
our labors, we will be given the precious gift of life over and
Vietnamese friend continues to experience the gift of beginning
again, the chance to start anew, to receive forgiveness, and with
that, the ultimate gift of love in his life.
the season of giving, the season of love, gives us the opportunity
to reflect on and practice the spirituality of giving. It is a
time when we experience again, as my Vietnamese friend did, that
some of the most precious gifts do not need boxes or bags. These
are the gifts of love that we can give to others, and to ourselves.
One spiritual practice that helps develop a spirituality of giving
is, at the end of each day, to recall with gratitude the gifts
of that day: given and received.
often say, ‘I would give, but only to the deserving.' The
trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pastures.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish."
- Kahlil Gibran
Joan Doyle is a member of the Sisters of St Martha of P.E.I. Her
many hears of experience in education includes teaching elementary,
high school and university students, and working with adults in
a variety of settings. She is a writer, workshop-giver, ritual-maker
and retreat director.
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