Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted – a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul. ~Rabbi Harold Kushner

photography by permission
graham jeffery

Thursday, October 02, 2008

give what we have

My friend Austin doesn’t ask his little girls what they want to be when they grow up. He doesn’t even ask them what they want to do when they grow up. When Austin talks to his little girls about their dreams, he asks them, “What do you want to give when you grow up?” Austin is a brilliant young entrepreneur who has spent quite some time pondering the purpose of life, and what he has come up with is this: our purpose in life is to give what we have. Our purpose is not about what we do, what we achieve, what we acquire, what we know, or what we become. Our purpose is about what we give, and we are here to give what we have.

When I consider this human purpose in relationship to all things in nature, it makes sense. The clouds, the sun, the trees, the ocean, the earth…all have an existence of giving what they have. Even decayed leaves and dead flowers and excrement give what they have. The natural process is everything giving what it has. We, too, are here to give what we have.

This feels right to me. And it changes everything. We evaluate and assess what we have achieved and what we have gained, and we use it to measure our success, but this feels like the opposite of the purpose of giving what we have. Working hard to achieve feels different from working hard to give. And the measurement of it feels very different.

I don’t mean to suggest we are let off the hook, though, for if my purpose is to give what I have, then I want to give the best I have and that means working hard to make my gift the best it can be. If I am a pianist, an architect, a doctor, a teacher, a cook…I will study and practice and work to give the best in what I am giving. But the underlying purpose feels different when considering my purpose is to give, not to earn or achieve.

And so it is I have begun to take the time to ask myself at the close of each day, “How did I give today…?”

photography by Madalina Diacanu