What are your intentions or your motivation for giving to others, whether it’s of your time, money, knowledge, or help? Is giving for your own personal growth considered selfish? Should we have any expectation for giving? These questions came up during a conversation I had with Fabian. Below he shared a real life story that shed a light on social recognition.
“Before you all go out there to receive your gifts and ribbons, I have two questions for you. Take a few moments and really think about your answers.”
Fabian walked over to the board behind him. He wrote the two questions and gave the boy scouts the time to truly answer from their heart.
“Why are you all here or what’s your purpose for being with this group?”
“Who are you doing this for?”
“Is it for God?”
“Is it for other people?”
“Is it for you?”
As usual, they had all gathered in the basement of their community church before going out on the streets to connect with the homeless. For the past few months, they were involved in a community program to collect clothing, food and build a relationship with the people living in the streets.
Buenos Aires went through repeated difficult recessions. Losing everything left its inhabitant helpless facing their despair. Many of them fell into a deep depression. To escape from it all, they left their homes, family and friends to live in the streets with absolutely nothing! Fabian and his group of boy scouts’ mission was to inspire them to realize their value and give them back some dignity for all they had to offer.
Giving for Personal Growth
On this particular day, Fabian and his group were getting ready to meet again with one homeless in particular. When Fabian first met this man, he recognized him from a story that had appeared in the newspaper the day of his disappearance. The man was a very well respected doctor, married with two kids. When his wife passed away, he was devastated. He could no longer function and fell into a deep depression. One day, he left his home, never to be seen again!
The boy scouts had taken the time to sit down and listen to the man’s stories. He had started to really open up to them. He confided in them that he was just waiting to die in the streets so he could reunite with his wife. Now, they were trying to make him realize how much he can be connected with her right here in this place: by choosing to share his talents with people who need him and by taking part in the lives of his two kids. His children who not only lost their mom, but their dad too.
As the boy scouts were getting ready to set out, the priest came to see them. He had an announcement. “Boys, I have a surprise for you! Outside in the back field of the church, the entire community has gotten together to recognize and show their gratitude for all the incredible work you have done. They have brought gifts, baked cakes and have prize ribbons for all of you. I will come back and get you when everything is ready.”
Fabian watched as the boys in his group, the same boys that he coached, mentored and taught about the most important things in life, were jumping with excitement over the gifts they were about to receive.
Recognition: A Means to An End
Silence had filled the room. They were all in deep thoughts searching for the answers to his questions.
After each one shared their answer, Fabian did not want to TELL them what to do. Instead he guided them in figuring it out for themselves by giving his own answer.
“You have two choices today” Fabian said:
You can choose to go out there, take your gifts and stand proudly in front of everyone by getting recognized. Or, you can walk away from the gifts and tell those people to give them to the homeless.
My answer to my questions is nothing other than, ‘I am here for MYSELF!’ I want to learn about whom I really am, my true self, he said looking straight in their eyes.
It’s great that you were guided to be here and that you are doing this to help others. However, doing something for anybody else but yourself will limit you to discover your true values and principles. The guidance is there, but, you have to look deep within your soul if you’re to discover who you can really become as a person. If you accept the gifts, you will be putting an end in discovering all you have to offer.
The gifts will change your mindset forever. It will create a belief that every time you go out there and help those people, there will be a gift waiting for you at the end of the task. What we are doing is not a task! It’s a journey to discover who we are. If you keep going, you will find the greatest treasure of all. The wisdom and the strength you’ll gain from everything you learn is your personal reward. This has no end! Everything that’s given to us, whether it’s money, knowledge or assistance should not be considered as gifts. It’s our responsibility to use them as tools to further give to others.
By accepting these gifts, we will clog our minds. We will miss out on the little most important things in life. The laugh of a child when we bring him a ball to play with. Or the excitement and the expressions on people faces when we give them second hand clothing to keep them warm and dry.
It’s these simple things that we experience that will make a difference in how we will grow as a person, understanding this is what will give us wisdom. When we’re able to take the time to learn from them, we become more in touch with ourselves and the universe. The more we learn, the more we want to learn and we realize how much is out there that we don’t know. Wanting recognition will make us weak; wanting to know more will make us strong. Remember, before joining this group, we were lost. We had no idea as to which path to follow for our future. We were all given an opportunity by being accepted in this group. We are all a lot more confident in ourselves, we developed people skills, leadership attributes and we all found meaning in our lives. I now know my passion in life because of this experience. THIS is my reward. We need to give back to these people, they have enriched our lives. We will receive so much more value than any gift or ribbon.
The door opened. The priest walked in, stood in the middle of the room and told the boys that everything is ready. “They even prepared a little ceremony.” Just before he could finish his sentence, one of the boys spoke out. “I don’t want to go out there.” Then, a second boy spoke and another and another… One by one, they all made the choice to refuse the gifts!
The priest was in shock. “You cannot refuse when someone gives you a gift.” Fabian replied. “If they really want to give us a gift, let us give them a gift instead.” He pulled out a page of the newspaper. It was the story of the doctor who disappeared. “Read this story to the people. When you finish reading it, tell them that the man in the story is standing outside the church. They should invite him and help him in every way possible to find his kids and get him back to practice medicine. This neighborhood needs someone like him.”
The boy scouts continued their mission. With the community’s support, they succeeded in bringing out the values and strengths of many other homeless people.
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