Some people in life are Givers.  And yes, I capitalized it, because these are special people, and they deserve that big, round G.  They give of their time. Their money. Their resources.

I am not one of those people. No, I am not a giver. Not even with a little “g.”

Other than Goodwill donations (which, if I’m being honest, is simply a way for me to get rid of junk) or the occasional crumpled bills pulled out of my purse at church (only when others are looking), my giving is minimal. So minimal, in fact, that I can still recall the last time I freely “gave.” Ready for this? It was 23 years ago, and I remember it vividly.

In 1992, I accompanied a friend to a church revival in Detroit. The pastor gave an inspiring sermon about missions, showing photos of impoverished children around the world and urged us to donate. I looked around in awe, thinking, “These people are just opening up their wallets?  Just like that?”  I was inspired.  Truly, it was the first time in my life, outside of watching Sally Struthers on TV, that I felt called to give. I pulled out my little purse and saw that I only had a ten dollar bill. The internal debate began:  Do I give the WHOLE bill?  I wonder if they give change. Ten dollars is like five hours of babysitting. I could buy TEN Clearly Canadian waters with this. I really love Clearly Canadian. But these kids probably can’t even afford ONE Clearly Canadian. I mean, if I DON’T give, it’s ok, because all these other people are giving. They’re Givers. But still… I should give. Ok. I’ll give the ten dollars. The whole thing. I’m taking this out and giving it all. Here comes the man. Can I do this?  He’s looking at me. Give it. Give it. 

And I did. I wish I could tell you that the experience changed me in some way. I wish I could tell you that giving felt great. But it didn’t. On my way home that night, giving did not feel good at all. I kept thinking, “I shouldn’t have done that. Now I don’t have enough for ME.”

For ME.

And so began my relationship with giving, both with my money, and my time. Selfish, huh?

I know that this may make you think less of me.  I know how bad it sounds, especially because I’ve been blessed in this life.  I’ve always had enough, just (in my perception) not extra.  Over the years, when an opportunity to give presented itself, I’d find myself thinking, “When I have more, I’ll give more. I just need more. More time. More money. I need extra.”

And then, the “when” arrived. Two years ago, God plopped a huge blessing into my lap.  And I took that blessing and turned it into something. And that something turned into the extra.  A little extra time, a little extra money. But instead of staying true to my word,  I ignored my 23 years of promises.  “Wow!  Thanks for this extra, God! I can do so much for ME with this extra!”

Well, God started whispering loudly. And when that wasn’t enough, He started shouting. Shouting by placing Givers into my life everywhere I turned. Givers that couldn’t be ignored.

My friends Mike and Jessica are two of them. Shortly before God plopped the aforementioned blessing into my lap, he plopped it into theirs. BUT, they saw it differently: This was a chance to Give.  And Give they do, in big, big ways by committing to use 75% of their earnings from their Rodan + Fields business to support adoptions, missions, charities, their church, and more. When I learned about their commitment, I was gobsmacked. I couldn’t even fathom working as hard as they do, as much as they do, and then turning around and giving it away–happily.  They’re open about their giving, but in the most humble way. “The reason we talk about our willingness to Give,” Jessica explained recently, “is never to brag. Rather, it’s because we hope that when other people find a little extra, they’ll be inspired to do the same.”

Then there’s my friend Kelley. She’s probably the busiest person I know: She is a mother of two, a wife, owns five successful restaurants and a boutique. But ask her what makes her tick, and without hesitation,  she’ll answer:  Giving.  Giving is what makes her tick.  When Kelley talks about her charities or her fundraising events,  she sparkles. It’s the kind of sparkle, the kind of infectious enthusiasm that make people think, “I want whatever she’s having.”

So last July, when Kelley asked me to reserve October 3rd on my calendar to volunteer at a fundraiser for Pink Ribbon Girls, a breast cancer charity with which Kelley works closely, I agreed. You don’t say no to that sparkle.

Well, October 3rd arrived, and I’ll be honest – I didn’t want to go. I contemplated excuses and ways to back out –but after years of a broken promise to give, decided against it.  Having spent 23 years deftly avoiding any type of volunteer work, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. But when I arrived, the one emotion that flooded the entire space–an emotion I didn’t anticipate– was JOY. Overwhelming JOY, everywhere I turned– joy in the coordinators, joy in the caterers, joy in the volunteers, and joy in the attendees. Pure, unadulterated JOY.

Throughout the night, I served drinks to Givers and Survivors. I smiled and wept, often simultaneously, as they shared their stories of defeat and triumph. I marveled at the enormity of it all: The cause, the event, the time it must have taken to pull something like this together. I felt both humbled and blessed to be standing in a room full of 500 Givers, doing what they do best:  Giving. Giving with JOY. It was only a baby step into their world, but it made me want to wade in a little further. Dig in a little deeper.

I spent 23 years equating giving with loss. Never once–not even for a moment–did I expect to gain.

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