And So I Go: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

>>My strange lesson from Thoreau on life, living and giving. BB

Posted on: December 21, 2009

I just read a blog that  had a long excerpt from Thoreau  and while reading the passage I remembered that I had had to read that same passage when I was 16 and how it eventually had a profound effect on me.  You see, Thoreau made me see making and having  money as  the most insignificant shallow part of living.

I read Thoreau when I was 16.  At the time I thought he was “weird”, but it was an assignment so I read him. It was only  much later in life I realized  he had a profound effect on my beliefs concerning work and money and giving back.   He had planted this sense of money as being the least thing in life, a by product only, and  with this seed I had grown my own  plant and designed the fruit myself.

I did not follow  in his foot steps.  No way!  I worked  and continue to work and work hard at anything I take  up I because I need to be passionately involved with what I am doing at the time.   This demand of passionate involvement I got from Thoreau  as he was so passionately involved in his choices.  And because of reading him combined with my need to labor I would not take up any labor that did not  command my passionate involvement.  When my interest began to wane into routine I found another job.  Because routine leads to  mediocrity  which is cheating you employer, customers and most of all yourself.  Living demands passion; existing is not living.

I remember often being called a “dreamer” because my wants were for more than I saw around me.  I wanted to improve my and others world.  A “dreamer”.  But i was not a dreamer at all because I  always felt a certainty that I could have and do anything I wanted.  There was simply never any question  in my mind and so I did get what ever I wanted in the material sense.  My wants were really rather few and rather mundane  most people would say since I am not now and never have been wealthy or even well off, but I did live well by my standards in a nice home with nice clothes many of which I made myself because I liked mine better than any I could buy.  I refused to put anyone else’s name on my butt or chest!  I traveled everywhere I wanted to go.  I feel I did my best as a parent and as a daughter, daughter-in-law and friend.  I despair that my best was not enough to insure harmony and happiness to those around me or even to myself, but it was my best and done with passion and love.

There again I got off topic!  Work and money and living life is the topic.  All I had to do was work for  what ever I wanted  and it was mine.  But I never ever worked for money.  I worked to live the life I wanted for myself and my family and  once I knew that my future life (retirement when I could no longer work was secure so I wouldn’t be a burden then any excess money I gave away).   I don’t however give money.  I never give money except to drop some bills in the Salvation Army kettles at Christmas.  I give things that I see people need.  Giving money is too easy and  impersonal.  I look at people and filled their needs.  Or more often, go to organizations or others who worked with people in need and asked what is needed then find a way to provide it.

One restriction is that I never give in person.  I always give thru a third person.  Dear Lord, but I hate for people to thank me for doing what  I as a human being should be doing!  Gratitude is not what one should be looking for when providing a need of another person.   The fact that you are in a position to be giving rather than on the receiving end should certainly be enough!  As I have said so often, we are ALL only a step or two away from being the ones who need!  Remember that and remind yourself of the fact daily.  And also put yourself in the position of having to take and how you would feel and what you would want done at the moment of receiving.  To have to be receiving one has fallen to a place where personal pride is either lacking or has been greatly crushed.  Self esteem, self-image, self-worth are all at the lowest ebb.   Don’t put these fellow human beings in the position of having to symbolically “bend their knee” to  one who is seen as being “superior”.

I was shopping once in a Dollar Tree Store for  smaller filler toys for a family of five children  I had decided to help for Christmas and started talking to another shopper.  She too was shopping for a child.  She was shopping for small toys to fit in a shoe box.  This Shoe Box Christmas program is an excellent program and fills a lot of needs for children both here and in other countries.  I don’t mean in any way to put it down.  And I have found from my own children that it is the small toys children seem to enjoy the most.  (My mother once suggested that for Christmas instead of big toys I just get my kids several dozen boxes of cereal with toys in them.  This way they would be thrilled with Christmas and I would have their breakfasts for a year!  I never did it but I had to admit she was right.  Ever see a kid with those silly toys found in cereal boxes?)

Anyhow to get back to the lady shopping to fill the  Shoe Box.  Just one Shoe Box.  She was wearing expensive clothes and carrying a nice leather purse so her circumstances were obvious.  She was excited about the program and told me about how grateful the children were and how nice it was to watch them opening their packages when she and her friends visited  the Children’s Home.  This woman and her friends were not giving gifts to the children; they were giving themselves the gift of the children’s gratitude for their charity!  You see her concern and motive was having the money and showing others that she had the money.  She felt superior to those dear children and had the need to show off to them and any adults not her gift given with love, but her money and her self congratulations for her supposed “giving nature”.  Giving, true giving,  would have been filling as many shoe boxes as she could comfortably afford and leaving them in the office or at the front door of the Children’s Home.  The children then could enjoy  their gift without the need to feel humble  gratitude  to the  “rich” ladies.  The children would not have been so bluntly and blatantly given the lesson that they  were recipients of charity and therefore not as “good” as others.  The children were given the first blow to their self-esteem along with the shoe box of toys and the need to say thank you to the “nice ladies”.

I did digress there but wanted to give a lesson in giving.  Don’t put people who can not give back in the position of having to say thank you.  They have so little you can at the very least allow them to have their pride.  I got this from Thoreau also.  Leave those who are less fortunate  for what ever reason  the pride and perhaps even the personal fantasy that they walked into a store and bought their own boots or jeans or candy bar.  Leave children the fantasy that Santa left the Shoe Box for them or perhaps that their Mommy’s and Daddy’s bought them gifts.

You might think this a strange lesson to have gained from Thoreau, but it was the lesson he taught me.    The lesson of being passionately involved and enjoying any thing I did while doing it, and then using any money gotten from the doing to get what I wanted for mine and myself and then letting the rest go because the money was my  least  concern in life and living.

Now that I have written this on my blog for all to see it appears to even me that I am saying that I am superior to those who give personally and expect thank yous.  And yes, I guess I do feel superior and more loving, and certainly  more understanding and respectful of those in need.  And that is the key, and that is why I am leaving this post as written.  Because if in reading  one person out there takes the lesson of giving and is understanding and  respectful of the feelings of the person having to receive then think what you want  of me.   It matters not what one thinks of me just as I thought Thoreau was “weird”  you can think me boastful or whatever you like because just as Thoreau in his “weirdness” planted a seed that grew in me perhaps I too will have planted a seed.   BB

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