Cultivating Giving And Gratitude

‘Tis the season for giving. You already knew that. The media informs us of it every second of the day. The businesses have already taken care of all the worries and inconveniences. Short on cash? No problem. There are layaways, store credit with no interest till year 2016 when presumably you will be well off, free shipping, sales and heavy discounts and of course, their everyday low prices. Strapped for time? Personal shoppers, on-line shopping, experts who will tailor your gift list for people you didn’t know you knew or loved, will take care of that problem. Gift wrappers, tree decorators, party planners, caterers, clean up services, even people who will eat and exercise for you are on the ready to serve you. No need to interrupt your uber-busy life.

Personally, the garden reminds me all the time to be grateful, to give freely, to be in the moment. The time, energy and love I lavish on it is directly proportional to the difference I make and how I feel. To begin with, getting my hands dirty, getting on my knees, bending and lifting as I go about tending to the garden, keep me humble. The sore muscles, achy joints, broken nails, scratched skin and seasonal allergies are evidence that nothing worthwhile comes easy. My efforts are rewarded with beauty and bounty. Much to be thankful and awed by. By taking care of the needs of a garden, I am forced to be mindful. My time spent cultivating it is reciprocated in a better understanding of nature, the world at large and my own self. As I better my garden, I find that I have bettered myself. The tutorial here is really about giving more of oneself. Having a lovely garden is the gift I give to family, my world, myself. For nurturing this piece of land, nature returns the favor in the many life lessons and innumerable brushes with grace.

Here is my take on giving. Each act of giving must involve the self in a deep way. When you have money, time, health and general wherewithal, it is easy to give. Write a check, sign up for a couple of hours at the soup kitchen, join a committee to fund raise ā€“ heck, head the committee why don’t you, purchase toys for underprivileged kids, train and run a marathon for a cure. You get the idea. All of that is noble, necessary and commendable. But, now, ask more of yourself. Make that check bigger by letting go of your dream for one more pair of designer shoes. After writing that check, ask what else you can do for that cause. Extend your hours at the soup kitchen and forget about the movie you hoped to take in. It’ll be on Netflix soon enough. Even better, you can pick up the DVD for free from the library. It will not hurt to see it a few months late. Take the toys you purchased and personally deliver it to the children. Spend some time with the recipients and get to know them. Skip the blow-out sales at the mall and shop local. Help your community thrive. So you didn’t get all the trendy bargains but, you helped more people than you know. Having fewer but more meaningful presents to give is good. Give by reaching deep within yourself.

The point I’m trying to make is this: give till it hurts a wee bit. Make it matter. Making a personal sacrifice so you can be of the most help is the spirit of true giving. It creates a mindfulness of how and what you give. Accommodating opportunities to volunteer and help despite tight schedules, lack of funds and/or other limitations and obligations is when we are called upon to rise to the occasion and show our true intentions. Please don’t get me wrong. Any gift is worthy. But, in these times of extreme consumerism we are all too caught up in the frenzy of thoughtless giving (and getting). The bigger, the more expensive the better. It is also the easiest. Meanwhile, since most folk do not have deep pockets, this results in feelings of being inadequate and insufficient. Worse, one witnesses the rearing of the ugly heads of discontent and envy. Often, people then don’t give at all. Sadly, it is not about wounded feelings but about bruised egos that gets in the way of giving.

Every little bit helps. So if you can only give $1.00, that is fine but perhaps you can also give the gift of time. The homemade, handmade and heart made are often the most cherished. Creativity and imagination go a long way in increasing the giving possibilities.

As a whole, we need to stop feeling sorry for what we don’t or cannot have or afford. Cease to look outside our lives and instead look within. Compare yourself to no one. Consider your blessings. The body you have is beautiful as is. It permits you to do the things you need to do. Cherish that. It probably could use more exercise, less dessert and better sleep. Well, you can do something about it but right now, give thanks for this perfectly imperfect body. The same goes for everything else in your life.

Between sincere gratitude and pure generosity, we have all the ammunition we need to make a serious difference in bettering our world. Everybody thinks they are too busy and frankly, I’m tired of hearing that refrain. The fact is, if we care enough about anything, we always find time for it. If we want to have or do something badly enough, we always get it done. It’s that simple. But please, I beg you, lets not brag about it, consider ourselves ‘experts’ or expect accolades. You know what you do and that is enough.

Instead, let your garden proclaim your goodness.
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Don’t forget! It is the season to write notes to friends and family – my botanical cards are available for just that purpose. The 8-card packs are also good for hostess and teacher gifts. Just saying. 15% percent of the sales goes to the Rocky Hills Preservation efforts of the Garden Conservancy.

(c)2014 Shobha Vanchiswar

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