When you receive a gift, you feel happy. But you are happy only for a while. Soon you look for more gifts and more sources of happiness. Thus, the happiness that comes from receiving is temporary―because it is the happiness of possession. The opposite of receiving is giving. When you give, you are giving away a possession, not under any duress or burden of duty, but out of your free will and love and compassion for the receiver. There is happiness in receiving, but joy in giving. However, don’t sing and dance with joy…then it is not really giving, but pleasure-seeking through philanthropy.

Giving is a gesture that should come naturally. Imagine a world in which all adopted the practice of give-and-take. That would be utopia.  If you allow me to imagine, I believe it was so in a once-upon-a-time Golden Age. Unfortunately, with so-called progress and development of society, we have become more of takers and less of givers. In the good old days (sounds so old-fashioned, doesn’t it?) when we were an agrarian economy, there was little and everyone understood the needs of others and barter of goods was common.

Even today in villages, farmers barter goods among themselves, so that all can get to eat a wholesome meal.  Awareness of the needs of others is reinforced in barter, because money is not important in barter deals. It’s about understanding the need of the other person, and sharing what we have, and in return, getting something we don’t have. When we get money in return, we are only selling, something that is more related to profit.

In the past, in urban households, people learnt sharing because of the joint family system. However, as we entered the phase of modernity and economic development,  joint families disintegrated into nuclear families―and, inadvertently, the joy of giving and sharing slowly disappeared from our lives.

Nita Agarwal

Children brought up in nuclear families know very well how to receive, because they are used to undivided attention and showering of gifts by doting parents. But they still have to learn the joy of giving. However, it’s never too late.

Now is the time to teach our kids about the joy of giving. It is no fault of theirs, if children have become takers and receivers of everything even without asking. In 2009, was launched the Joy of Giving week, now known as Daan Utsav, from October 2  to  October 8, every year. In this week, people are encouraged to give. Schools have special activities so that children learn the joy of giving. Why is the Joy of Giving week held? To remind us that somewhere something has gone amiss in our society; that the divide between haves and have-nots has grown very wide and this is the way to make people realize the need to help others, who are less fortunate than us.

Joy is eternal happiness that will never ever cease; it comes not from receiving but from giving. Happiness that we experience in receiving is something we desire; it is often short-lived because our mind starts craving to fulfil another desire. As long as our happiness depends on receiving something, be it a material possession or emotional support, we will never experience real joy. Joy comes when we have no expectations in return for anything we do. When we help someone without expecting anything in return, especially gratitude, then it’s a pure act of love.

The ability to help someone is the biggest blessing one can have in this life. It means you have more to give to others, than to receive from them. Giving can be material or emotional. We have to raise our kids to be givers and not takers. We have to consciously inculcate this habit of giving in to our kids. We must raise kids who are compassionate. Recently in a newspaper, I read a story of a teenage girl, asking her father to give away the money he had saved for her higher education to help the migrant workers, who had lost their jobs in the layoffs due to Covid-19. Such acts of kindness move people and inspires them to also come forward and help others.

I remember once when I was discussing with my husband the need to help someone for medical treatment, my son who was around 12 told me that we must do it without hesitation and voluntarily promised that he will not ask me to order  any pizza for him for some weeks to come. He may not have realised that money saved from not ordering pizza was not enough to help someone in need, but I was happy that he was ready to sacrifice something dear enough to help someone, whose need was more urgent and genuine. I felt assured that he will grow into a kind young man and never hesitate to help people in need.

As parents we should be conscious of our responsibility to raise young compassionate beings.In our daily life, by our own acts of kindness, we can help our kids learn  the joy of giving from a young age. This is the best time to teach them to not merely share their happiness with those who are less fortunate ―that is the less difficult part―but to also give. What can they give? Part of their pocket money? No, they haven’t earned that. Perhaps a toy that they were ‘dying’ to possess. Or an expensive playstation that you had promised your child on scoring good marks. If as a parent, you had taught your child the joy of giving and he donated that playstation to an orphanage voluntarily, then that would be really joyful giving…more than money saved from not ordering pizzas.

Yes, celebrate your kids’ birthdays in an orphanage so that they can learn the joy of sharing, if not giving, with ones who have no one to give them such small pleasures of life. Catch ‘em young and teach them the joy of giving.

For, as somebody said, “A child is like wet cement, whatever falls on it makes an impression.”We may try to excuse ourselves from this task of teaching our children the joy of giving by asking, “Ha, do children ever listen to their parents?” Agree, and I quote James Baldwin, “Children have never been very good at listening, but they never failed to imitate others.” Why do you want your children to imitate others? Shouldn’t they be imitating you and your acts of kindness and giving?

The real joy of living is in giving. Just as a flower needs water, soil and sunshine to bloom, a child needs love, care and feelings of self-worth to grow. Don’t let your child grow in ignorance, but let her/him grow with a sense of responsibility and love for fellow beings. I would also like to share the African concept of caring and sharing, known as Ubuntu. Kids in Africa are brought up to believe that they cannot be happy if others are sad. So they share everything and ensure all feel happy. Our kids must embrace this concept of humaneness.

In my school days, we had a programme called LTS (Leadership Training Service), where we learnt to provide things for poor or sick people. Every month if every child in every school gives even 10 rupees out of their pocket money, then we can easily collect a few thousand rupees in each school. Suppose there are 2,000 kids in a school, then a contribution of just rupees 10 by each child will ensure 20,000 rupees gets collected easily. Multiply Rs 20,000 by the millions of schools. It will add to a fortune. The money collected can be used for any charity.

Every month, students can decide how to use this money to help someone in need. This way, all the children will get a chance to learn the joy of giving. Thus, we can have a mammoth Joy of Giving springing up in schools and by example, spreading to colleges, offices and so on.

Teach our children the Joy of Giving and they will spread it to the rest of India―then to the entire world.

Nita Agarwal is an ex-Table Tennis State player, qualified teacher, self-taught budding painter, a successful blogger, who writes about her observations of life and people; and most importantly, a working housewife. 

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