Wednesday, February 25, 2009


After an excellent lecture on the benefits of giving, I thought to ponder the question:

As a college student, how does one give? How ought I to give?

My first thought was that of giving blood. The sharing of life's blood seems a beautiful, symbolic action; and in few other daily circumstances can one directly save lives.

A charity run presented itself, incidentally, the same day. The Red Cross coaxes me into being 15 dollars more generous by allowing me to run a race. I do not find this type of incentivization (No, that's not a word; yes, it is now.) inappropriate; Is it better to do evil, or good? Indeed, a major thrust of the address spawning this article was to encourage us to give to others by describing statistically the economic, psychological, and sociological benefits of charitable giving. But I think all this talk of incentive rather misses the mark, which is to get beyond the incentive.

Quite frankly, giving is the right thing to do. In response to Cain's question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" the response is emphatically and absolutely, "Yes." In an ideal situation, we would give because we want to give - even when no when else will know; even when it wrenches our hearts to do so; even when we see no personal benefits from it. Perhaps, most of all, when we don't want to give and feel hypocritical for doing so.

And what type of giving? Blood and money have both been mentioned, and both are important. Time costs us so very dearly, but is so very precious to those who receive it; no amount of money can buy the satisfaction in a child's eyes from a few minutes of interaction. Don't believe me? Try to correct the opposite - the hurt in a child's eye from a lack of interaction - with cash, or a gift. (I may be biased - gifts mean much less to me than time. But the point remains.) Service, kind words, a smile, a touch - given freely, sweeten and strengthen our lives.

Gary Chapman, author of the Five Love Languages, would say correctly that what I am describing generally is love. (In fact, I borrowed or rounded out that list using his book, The Five Love Languages for Singles, which I heartily recommend.) Giving is the key to opening our hearts.

As a side note, I think the sweetest romantic relationship would be one of mutual giving; of the mutual pursuit of both parties' happiness, carried out indefinitely.

You want to love someone? Serve them. Help them. Give to them, in all of the ways mentioned here. Have problems with a person or group? Serve, help, give of yourself to the people with whom you have problems.

How wonderfully the Savior expressed this principle, in Matt 5:44-45, and 3 Nephi 12:44-45 - "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven..."

This is something in which I have a long way to go. I think we all do. The conclusions of those chapters are a commandments to be perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect. The primary attribute of God? Love. If love is expressed by giving in some way, then one interpretation of the Savior's command is "Give, even as I, or your Father in heaven has given." (3 Ne 12:44). We cannot perform the Atonement; we cannot lay down our lives and take them up again for the salvation of mankind. But we can lose our lives for the sake of the Savior, in the service of our fellow man.

How is this done? We return to the original question: How ought I to give?

Pres. Monson speaks ofen of how the Savior went about doing good. Christ's life was and is an example of service; consistent, and throughout.

From His example, then, the question ought not to be - How ought I to give? But rather - Where am I holding back, and how can I correct that? (This requires a delicate balancing act between personal renewal and improvement, fulfilling our needs and desires, and using the tools at our disposal to bless and enrich the lives of others. I submit that success in this endeavor requires revelation. Pray about it.)

I think the first corrections I can make are running for chairty, and giving O- blood. But I'm not perfect in love, or in my motives, or in my giving. I take comfort in an incentive offered by Christ "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matt 26:25)
To the extent that I've done that, I have experienced that. It's true. Christ makes so much more of us than we can of ourselves - as we give.