Ask yourself this question honestly. “How often do I do something for someone without expecting anything in return? Do I get any pleasure from doing it when that person never even knows that I did it?” I am afraid the joy of giving for some of us comes primarily from the acclaim we get — the credit for being generous. I am also just as sure that for others of us the pleasure is solely in knowing that we made life happier for someone else.
When we read of an anonymous gift being made, it has a little extra significance for most of us. We’ve heard the story of the nouveau riche oil baron who attended a certain banquet to raise money for a charitable enterprise.
When money was finally discussed he rose to his feet and said, I am Bill Thompson. I own the Bill Thompson Oil Company. I own the Bill Thompson Ranch. I own the big, red Cadillac just outside the side door to this building. I am a generous man and I like this heah charity and so I want a record made of the fact that generous Bill Thompson is giving $10,000 to this heah charity. And furthermore, I want a record made that he is giving it anonymously.
Do something like a telephone call to a friend, a sincere compliment to someone, a small favor which is unexpected; any of these will suffice; the important thing is that you are doing it for the joy of doing, the pleasure of giving and don’t expect to receive something back.
We have heard it said that some people show appreciation only when anticipating favors yet to come. I am sure that these same unfortunate people bestow favors only to be rewarded with similar courtesies or be given public acclaim. They miss the real joy of giving.
My grandfather impressed me with this principle while I was a very small boy. He was a large man in his seventies and wore his confederate uniform until the day he died. He had once been a courier for Robert E. Lee, which accounted for the fact that he grew a beard similar to the great southern general’s.
We were walking down a small street south of the tracks in the little town inMississippiwhere my grandfather lived and where I spent my summers as a boy. As we passed a woman, my grand father stepped off the sidewalk and tipped his confederate hat while bowing graciously. I was somewhat puzzled and said, “Pappy, don’t you know who that woman is? She is the town character. No one is supposed to have anything to do with her.”
As long as I live I’ll never forget his reply. He grabbed me by the collar and with his eyes blazing made this classic remark, “Young man, I want to tell you something and I don’t want you to forget it. I tip my hat to a lady, not because she is a lady, for she may or may not be a lady. I tip my hat because I am a gentle man. Never forget that.” That’s been just about fifty years ago and believe me, it was written so indelibly in my mind that I haven’t forgotten it.
We might draw a helpful analogy to our principle of giving. We give not because a person is particularly deserving of a gift but we give because we ourselves are generous and thoughtful.
When I first moved toArizonain the thirties I worked for several years with a utility company. One day just before Christmas I noticed that Mr. Smalley, our general manager, was shipping a turkey to a certain person inYuma. I said, “Mr. Smalley, do my eyes deceive me? After all the trouble you have had with that rascal are you actually sending him a gift?”
He said, “Yes, Cavett, I am.”
“Mr. Smalley,” I said, “It’s none of my business, but may I ask why?”
He said, “Well, maybe you’ll understand and maybe you won’t. Each Christmas I pick out three people who, during the past year, I feel have done me an injustice and toward whom I have, as a result, harbored ill feeling. I send them a nice present. I find that after I have done this I am completely free of any resentment I might have had. I feel clean inside and absolutely emancipated.”
At the time I didn’t fully accept or understand what he said. As I was privileged to know him better I realized that it was exactly the kind of thing that a man as big as Ralph Smalley would be expected to do.
Lincolnonce said, “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him your friend.”
In the South it has always been the custom, especially in rural areas, to hold revival meetings several times annually.
There is a story that during one such meeting the evangelist was speaking on the NEW COMMAND and expounding the virtues of loving your fellow man. Finally after a two-hour sermon on the subject during the heat and humidity of an August summer, he stopped, wiped his brow, and said, “Is there anyone in this congregation who has no hate, jealousy or resentment toward his fellow man?”
An old gentleman in his nineties on the back row raised his hand. The pastor was inspired. “Dear Brother,” said he, “will you please come up to the front and give your testimony. It is so satisfying to find a person in whose veins the milk of human kind ness has not clabbered.”
The old, stooped gentleman leaning on his cane and with tobacco juice running down one side of his mouth hobbled slowly up to the pulpit.
“Now tell us how you have rid your mind and heart of all ill feelings toward your fellow man, so that we, too, may follow your example,” proudly announced the pastor.
The man in his nineties turned around and without changing his expression, in a high pitched, rasping voice said, “I just outlived the old rascals.”
While visiting in Honolulua few years ago I became acquainted with one of the native guides who had driven us over the island. He invited me to his home for dinner one night, an invitation which I eagerly accepted. After I had met his lovely wife and their nine kids he said, “You know, a man with nine kids is more satisfied than a man with nine million dollars.” I agreed with him whole-heartedly and assured him that money couldn’t buy the kind of happiness he derived from his family.
Our guide laughed and said, “But you don’t get my point, A man with nine kids doesn’t want any more.”
After a fine dinner and much conversation I said to him, “I’ve never seen a happier man or a happier family. Why is it? Do you have some secret formula?”
For the first time I saw our guide become very serious. He led me to his bedroom and pointed to a framed plaque which carried these words in large letters: He that sayeth to himself, “every man is my friend, i shall love him” — soon his heart will be filled with happiness and his pocketbook will be filled with silver.
He then explained to me that this was a Very old native quotation which had been handed down in his family from generation to generation. It was no wonder that this was a happy man. His love for his fellow man was stamped vividly on his face and on his actions.
A very sweet, gentle and lovely lady in her sixties was approached one day in this manner. “You are a most beautiful person. You have such poise and self-assurance. Surely you have been greatly beloved by many people throughout your entire life. It is written all over your face.”
The lady smiled and said, “You are looking at a person who has been privileged to love many people for many years.” This lady must have been truly beautiful — that type of beauty that does not fade but which increases each year. Why? Because she was constantly painting her face from the inside. She was using the priceless colors of love, sympathy, patience, unselfishness, gentleness and many others. Yes, she practiced the fifth rule of our magic formula for success — she truly gave to others.
Let’s form the habit of doing something nice for someone each day.