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I have lived in the US for over fifteen years and have melted into its bubbling pot. As December approaches, my family works hard to bring in the spirit of the season : The decorations, the Christmas tree, the holiday lights, including some oddly shaped snowmen-on-snowboards that don’t light up, but fit right into the frosty white landscape with their merry smiles. Inside, the kids are making the all important LIST.  I look at the list, and ask, “What would you like to give?” They reply, “We have no money, what can we buy?”

What can you give when you do not have much, or seemingly nothing at all?

When Nithya Shanthi visited us last year, he said something that gave me much to experiment on. He said:

 “If you are seeking encouragement, go find someone who is discouraged, and encourage them.”

 The story of Eunice Kariuki illustrates this beautifully.

In the 1990s, Eunice was divorced, responsible for three children, and an immigrant from Kenya living in New York. She moved to Denver, CO hoping that a cousin would help her with her problems. The cousin died few weeks after she came to Denver. Alone and homeless, Eunice turned to the Denver Resuce Mission for help. Deep inside she knew she had to do something for herself and was growing restless. One day while she was ranting about the AIDS problem in Africa, a friend said to her, “You are angry because you are not doing anything about it.” That changed everything. Eunice took charge not only of her own life but that of many, many children in Kenya. Her purpose and passion has created a home called Tumaini for the orphans of Kenya. Tumaini stands for Hope. Hope was not something the Eunice had at a point in her life, but she found it because she gave hope. 

Giving: Keeping it simple

Back home, here, the kids are bored on a winter’s day. “We have nothing to do? What can you do, it’s cold outside and nobody wants to play.” I ask, “So what do you want.. don’t tell me what you don’t have, tell me what you really want.” They had to think hard now, because they didn’t know what they wanted. Here’s what followed from two kids.

“I want to play with someone.” “I want to make money.” ( to help the burgeoning holiday wish list, I guess)  “I want hot cocoa with marshmallows.”

The result: Winter Paradise Cafe opened on our driveway that afternoon; one tiny table, loaded with the goodies. Apparently, the kids on the street were also bored and tired of being indoors. We brought them out and gave us all some well deserved cheer.

The Hot Cocoa Stand

Giving: Keeping it close to the heart

While I want my kids to blend into this country, we now call home, I also want them to learn and enjoy the unique traditions of their Indian heritage. One such is the Indian holiday of  Deepavali(a.k.a Diwali). This is a time to honor the triumph of good over evil, a season to spread good will and cheer with gifts, sweets and the lighting of lamps. This is where the Fourth of July meets Christmas. To center it around the kids, and to make this seamless with their life, I decided to have them gift hand-painted lamps to all their teachers and talk to their friends about the tradition. Each year, as the holiday approaches, they get excited about getting their gifts ready. They ask me questions so they can answer those that are posed to them. My wants are met simply by giving them an opportunity to learn in their own way. The children give little gifts, and get plenty of support and recognition from their teachers and friends. They feel part of the mainstream, they are melting into the bubbling pot.

Everyday in everyway, I have come to see that I can never receive without giving and never give without receiving. Only now, I am more concious of it and can see the transactions in the simplest of choices I make.

These are my gleanings from this Year of Giving:

    • Shift out from a position of desperation by stating the wants in the positive. So, that would make “I am lonely” change to “I want a friend to talk to” or “I want a walking partner.”
    • Find someone to share your need/wants/desires with. What are you good at that you can share: your time, talent, attention, willpower, a good story?
    • Get creative, the moment you shift from “me” to “us”, you’ll find that your juices begin to flow, you are truly thinking “Outside Your Box”
    • Read inspirational stories of others who have given without having anything to begin with.
    • Take a moment to be grateful for what you have.
Thank you for reading this post. I would love to hear from you. Share your stories of giving. Who recieved your generosity? How were you inspired? What have your rewards been? What did you come to love about yourself?

This is how the snowmen-on-snowboards is supposed to look

You can’t give a hug without getting one back. ~Unknown