..The Intuitive Times


The Spirituality of Giving

by Joan Doyle

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For 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.

Shortly 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.

A 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.

As 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."

The 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 over.

My 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.

Christmas, 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.

"You 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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