The Joy of Giving
Updated: Jun 24
Have you every wondered what would happen if you just started giving things away to others? I did, so I embarked on a journey to do just that! Read on to see what happened...
Early in 2020 (before we knew what was to come), I started thinking about trying something new. I had recently been wading deeper into the self-help world and was curious about how my mindset and actions may have been impacting my life in ways I didn’t understand. As I was thinking about what kind of project or task I wanted to take on, I was reading Jen Sincero’s wonderful book You Are a Badass, in which she wrote of a friend who had given something away for 28 days as a part of treatment for her MS. This idea took hold inside of me and I decided to give something away everyday for a month, starting on my birthday. As I further contemplated the idea, it snowballed into a whole year of giving- for my entire 43rd year of life, I would give something everyday. Truthfully I had no idea what this would look like, or how it would play out, but I started anyway! I decided that in an effort to hold myself accountable to actually doing it, I would start an Instagram account to document my gives each day, https://www.instagram.com/rachelgives/
As I started I felt a mix of emotions- excitement, nervousness, and curiosity mostly. Would this be too hard? Would it be too expensive? What would I give away? How would people receive it? Only one way to find out, so I dove in. My first give was on my 43rd birthday and it was a donation to a fund for scholar athletes, the charity of choice of a colleague who was running the Boston Marathon. As days turned into weeks I gave plants to friends, journals to students at school, and a 70th birthday gift to my dad. And then suddenly it was March and the world shut down and I thought “How in the hell will I give to people if I’m not allowed to see anyone???”
But it turned out that my giving project became a life line that gave me a reason to go drop off little gifts to people (and sneak in a socially distanced visit), make donations to those in need (there were plenty), and think about something uplifting rather than the doom and gloom of the pandemic!
I’ll be honest, as I was moving through this year, there were definitely days when it got to be bedtime and I realized that I hadn’t given anything and I had to quickly brainstorm what I could do at 10:00 PM. But there were also days when I knew just what I wanted to give and days where opportunities to give sprouted organically. Through it all I was constantly delighted at giving unexpected gifts to people, both strangers and familiars.
When the year was up, my last give was to myself- I gave myself credit for completing the entire year of giving. I was proud of myself for sure! However, looking back there were many other takeaways as well. Since having children, I had been living fully in a lack mentality- hoarding the financial resources I had to be sure we always had enough. This project forced me to step outside of that- I had to, at least some days, spend money to give to others! Additionally, I realized how good it feels to give to others, it truly filled me up to give gifts to unsuspecting people and watch their faces light up! And perhaps one of the most unexpected legacies from the project is the impact it had on my children. My three girls were aware of the project, and would occasionally ask what my “give” was that day, but they were largely uninterested and removed from it, or so I thought. Until I started noticing all of the gifts they were giving to their friends, family, and teachers, a habit which has stuck with them now 2 years later. Turns out they were listening!
The lasting impact of this on me has been to push me out of my lack mindset and remind me that I will always have enough and by giving to others I ensure this abundance! I have also taken with me the joy of giving to others. To quote myself “I will take with me that delightful feeling of giving someone an unexpected gift, which, as it turns out, was the unexpected gift for me of this project”.