The Greater Happiness of Giving—Do You Experience It?
THE banquet room’s houselights have been dimmed. The music has been muted. The dancers have stopped. A spotlight plays its beam on a pyramid of gaily wrapped boxes. There are big boxes and little boxes. There are square ones and round ones, pink ones and blue ones, silver-colored ones and gold-toned ones. Fancy ribbons and bows adorn them all. Nervous hands of an excited bride carefully unwrap each, while a self-conscious groom offers silent assistance.
There are toasters and blenders for the kitchen; china and silverware, tablecloths and matching napkins for the dining room. There are towels galore and washcloths aplenty, and bed sheets and pillowcases to last a lifetime. There are enough clocks for every room in the house and cookbooks with more than enough recipes to satisfy the taste of every gourmet.
As the gifts are opened there are “oohs” and “aahs” and heartfelt expressions of gratitude by the newlyweds. They have experienced the happiness of receiving from those who knew the joy of giving.
Weddings, anniversaries, Christmases, birthdays, and a host of other celebrations are all social mores in which gift giving is an expected and accepted part of the rituals. But because it is expected in many countries, it often works a hardship on the giver that detracts from the joy of giving. There is, however, the spontaneous giving, the giving that is not expected. It delights the receiver, whether the gift is little or big, and it brings the giver the greatest happiness.
Admittedly, those who have more are able to give more. For example, America’s 19th-century industrialist Andrew Carnegie could have been his country’s first billionaire. Instead, he gave away 90 percent of his fortune over a period of 18 years. When his secretary warned him that he was depleting his personal capital, he happily replied, “Delighted to hear it my boy, keep it up.” That same era saw John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men in the world, give away $750 million in his lifetime. It has been written that singer Elvis Presley “would hand out Cadillacs by the dozen” and thoroughly enjoyed doing so.
Not a New Custom
The giving of gifts is a custom almost as old as man himself. From earliest times it has played an important role in the lives of people. Abraham’s aged servant gave gifts of jewelry to Rebekah after seeing evidence that Jehovah had assigned her as a wife for Isaac. Also given were “choice things to her brother and to her mother.” (Genesis 24:13-22, 50-53) After the adversity suffered by Job was over, he was presented with gifts by his brothers and sisters and former acquaintances—each one giving “a piece of money and each one a gold ring.”—Job 42:10, 11.
When the unnamed queen of Sheba traveled to Jerusalem to visit King Solomon, she was moved by his God-given wisdom and pronounced his servants happy for being able to hear and benefit from this wisest of men. So moved was she that she presented Solomon with gifts of 120 talents of gold (worth about $50,000,000) as well as precious stones and much-prized balsam oil. She may have depleted her tiny kingdom’s treasury by a considerable sum, but doubtless she experienced the joy of giving. Solomon too was to experience the joy of giving, for he gave her gifts in return that apparently exceeded the value of the treasures she had given him.—2 Chronicles 9:12; American Translation, Moffatt.
The early Christians made gifts or contributions in behalf of their needy brothers. The apostle Paul wrote of the Macedonian and Achaian Christians, who, although poor, expended themselves beyond their actual ability in giving to their brothers in want in Judea. “They have been pleased to do so,” Paul said.—Romans 15:26, 27.
Gifts That “Speak”
Today, it is obvious that gift giving continues to be a basic human way of establishing and strengthening the bond of love and friendship, to let others know that we care.
There are gifts from one marriage mate to another, simply to say, “I love you”—a simple box of candy or a bouquet of flowers. There are gifts from children to parents. And what loving parents are not always giving to their children? There are gifts to soothe a broken heart, to cheer a depressed soul, to say “get well soon,” to express appreciation for kindnesses shown and hospitality extended, or merely to say, “I had a wonderful time.”
There are gifts to the needy, to disaster victims whom we may never see and from whom we may never receive an expression of thanks. A basket of fruit for the sick, houseplants for the shut-ins, a piece of jewelry for a dear friend—little things that mean a lot. It is giving with the joy that comes from the heart. These are the gifts that are often the most cherished.
Of all the occasions for giving, none are as visible as the worldwide pageantry of Christmas. It is an orgy of gift giving rooted also in the distant past. It is a celebration dreaded by many and eagerly anticipated by others. It can mean the difference between financial disaster and a horn of plenty. Even though gifts are exchanged between friends, the ritual can bring them closer together or drive them apart. This paradox of Christmas giving will be considered in the next article.
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Toys can be fun, BUT YOU ARE YOUR CHILD’S BEST GIFT!