Why is receiving harder than giving?

Charity Giving

Have you ever received charitable giving? I have. Due to circumstances beyond my control, an injury disabled me a few years ago. My family suffered, I suffered, and others suffered either directly or indirectly.

I have given much hard-earned coin over the years to charities, churches, and other well-meaning organizations. This came easily to me and felt right. Helping your fellow humans out just makes good sense to me. It also makes everyone feel good, or at least I thought so.

Although I found it easy to give to others when I could, when it came time to receive similar help, the fabric of the story changed a great deal. The ‘feel good’ emotion when handing over aid to someone else became replaced with a sense of guilt and shame. Now I was on the ‘business end’ of the giving and it was horrible.

Charity Receiving

Due to multiple personal disasters, I found my family in need of some much-needed charitable giving. Naturally, we became the focus of well-meaning friends, families, and local organizations. When you stand in front of someone collecting donations before some big box store, putting money into a collection container of some sort just comes naturally to most of us. Standing in my living room receiving money from someone did not have the same feel.

Another well-meaning friend of the family set up a trust fund for us. Funds began to pour in at an astonishing rate. We became paralyzed by it. We felt bad every time we spent any of the money on anything. I felt awful. Why did I have to take money from someone else? What was I supposed to spend it on? Could I pay rent, food, or buy a needed appliance?

The Community Reached Out To Us

One day not long after this ordeal began, my wife spoke to a friend about it and the couple invited us to dinner. We accepted. Sitting at the table and eating food we could not afford was a lightning strike to our emotions. They listened to us talk about the two ordeals we suffered through at that time. Finally, after a long pause, he spoke.

I can only paraphrase the conversation now, since a few years have passed and my memory of the night faded a bit, but the gist of the conversation went something like “You guys should not feel guilty using the money in the trust fund. It’s there to help you through this time. If you need to pay your light bill then pay it. If you need a new washing machine, buy it. If you need to buy some groceries, then get them. If you need it then get it.”

My first response to this? “What if we run out of money? What if we used it all and still have these huge medical expenses? Shouldn’t we just use the money to only pay medical bills?” He hit me like a major league baseball player at bat, “Look how much money poured in from the community. You didn’t even ask for it. They just give and give. Now imagine that we actually ask a few folks for donations. Don’t you think these folks want to help? They love you guys and want to help. They love to help. If the well runs dry, we will ask for more.”

A Valuable Lesson Learned

I sat stunned. It never occurred to me. I had thought this money was strictly for medical expenses. Then it really dawned on me: Everything is a medical expense when you are down, sick, or injured. The rent, lights, groceries, car payment, fuel, insurance, clothes; every single expense then becomes a medical necessity.

It was still painful every time we used money from that trust fund. We still felt a little twinge of guilt, but we used that money. We persevered and the path we traveled from then on became all the smoother by many people giving of time, money, and other help. When the chips were down the community chipped in and we carried on. Looking back on the experience now, I feel a little foolish that someone had to point out the painfully obvious.




“Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot.” I read the quote that statement is commonly used with probably hundreds of times in the past. It really reads like a new idea every time I come across it somewhere. I always think of some new twist in my life experiences which it forms with and delivers new insight into my journey.

Now for a longer passage from the same author, Rumi:

Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot

seek the path that demands your whole being.
Leave that which is not, but appears to be
seek that which is, but is not apparent.

You are searching the world for treasures

but the real treasure is yourself.

If you are tempted by bread, you will find only bread.

What you seek for you become.

- Rumi

Really deep and insightful. I will not go in great detail about Rumi since his biography is readily available from various sources but instead I want to focus on some of the keywords in this passage.


Rumi used “seeking” as a teaching element in his writings. He shares this trait with many great teachers. Horace Mann often gets quoted as the origin of this quote:

Seek not greatness, but seek truth and you will find both.
- Horace Mann

Curiously enough, old Horace held political offices in the U.S. for many years. Of course, he lived during an age when many politicians actually said meaningful things that people listened too.

The American Standard Version Bible lists Matthew 7:7-11:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Even Christianity’s favorite collection of quotes talks a bit about seeking. So what does seeking mean? Well, if you type define:seeking in Google’s search box, you might get the following:

seeking  present participle of seek (Verb)

  1. Attempt to find (something): “they seek shelter”.
  2. Attempt or desire to obtain or achieve (something): “the new regime sought his extradition”.

So, if we look closely, I think we can find a deeper meaning behind the quotes in this article. Really deeper meaning floated to my awareness after the most recent reading of the Rumi quote.

Seeking, as defined before, seems to point the ability to “see” events or things around  us. Even the word “see” exists inside “seek” but that play on the words may not exist in other languages or cultures, but I think meaning can often be found in the most unusual locations and I’ll take it when given.
“Seek the wisdom,” interpreted differently, would suggest “seeing” or “looking” more deeply for the wisdom. To “seek, and ye shall find” will require us to look for the thing we want to find.

“Seeing” requires use of the eyes and many times when we look around we do so silently. Listening requires we look at the thing being listened too. If we listen at a higher level of understanding and thought, we might actually learn things. The old saw about listening goes something like this: Listen twice, speak once. We have two ears so we can listen twice (and, presumably, think twice). Then, and only then, should we speak.

Listen twice before you speak once.
- Scottish Proverb


Graduation Emotions

Graduation time came today for someone very close to me. Very heady experience full of emotion and potential. Those graduates posed on a field awaiting a small piece of paper that says, “Job well done.” Several people made nice speeches full of good advice, some called the names, and the flowing of tears began.

The experience left me somewhat exhausted. It was little in the way of physical exhaustion other than the brief walk to a seat and some heat from the sun. The emotional output was pretty intense. These folks were happy and you could see it.

Graduation Experience

It was the first time I had really been to a graduation experience where I actually paid attention and listened. These people really worked hard. They persevered and eventually most of them will prosper for their efforts. Some will move on to careers of fulfillment and other will continue the education path even further. So many things to do and so many possibilities.

The end of one journey and the start of another. That’s what graduation really is all about. We learn all we can in a short time and then try to put it into practice (in most cases I would think anyway). Can we really experience it without being touched somewhere deep down? I was not able to get away from the event without some watery eyes and a lot of smiling. So many smiles flashing just triggered that smile you get when you see someone else smiling big. Spreads like a rumor but with better results.

Destination Anywhere

Why do we pursue these educational experiences so steadfastly? Time and again, researchers show that salary does not equal happiness and will rarely keep people at a job for long without the job satisfaction to match. Yet we relentlessly pursue this course to further our careers and earning potential. Yet for many, many people it does not end with a dramatic increase in salary.

I like to think the journey itself holds a lot of the satisfaction and wonder for us. We get finished and move on to the next major chapter in our lives. Some of us do increase our earning potential as a result, but I think many just do it for the pure satisfaction of saying, “I did that. I ran the race and crossed the finish line.”

In the end, happiness is probably the main destination for most. Whether the increased earning potential exists or not, the happiness obtained by learning and applying knowledge gives us that creative flow and potential that puts us on the road to any destination we choose.