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Just Give

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

This afternoon I went to a regular supermarket. This is pretty unusual. Sometimes years pass between such events. Usually I shop in places where the produce is organic.

This means that I shop in places where the customers are generally more well-off economically, or more well-off in terms of their understanding of nutrition.

Thanksgiving arrives in less than two days, so the supermarket was crowded. I stood in line, holding my bag of Terra exotic vegetable chips and one onion. In front of me was a young mother with two small children, likely ages three and four.

The children’s skin was dull and had white patches. Signs of poor diet. Then I noticed that neither the mother nor her children were dressed warmly enough for the weather. It’s quite cold in the Northwest right now.

I looked in her cart. Four cans of Spam and a very small package of baby diapers.

For those who don’t know, Spam is canned meat made from ground scraps. It’s a last resort.

In that moment, it was impossible not to give. It was impossible not to be generous. And so I quietly gave her $100.

Ten million kids in the U.S. don’t have enough to eat every day. In other parts of the world, the situation is much, much worse.

Here in the U.S., the food bank shelves are shockingly empty. War is draining our economy.

But these aren’t the arguments that will convince you to give, or to give a bit more this year.

I heard a guy in a TV interview recently. One day, he encountered a bunch of students in Afghanistan sitting outside, writing with sticks in the dirt. Then and there, he decided to build schools for kids. And he did, even though he had little money to start. No second-guessing. No turning back. Now there are 58 schools.

As Chogyam Trungpa taught: First thought, best thought.

We are naturally moved by the situation of other beings in need. We have an impulse to give money, some goods, a helping hand, our time or our attention and kindness.

But then we start second-guessing and rationalizing. Our own sense of deprivation and fear kicks up secondary reactions such as anger, envy and narcissistic sadness–the kind that convinces itself that all efforts to help others are pointless.

Empathy and the impulse to give arise spontaneously, but we are so quick to apply our favorite fixations, we hardly notice that fleeting moment of naturalness.

Giving spontaneously in response to the need of another person is first and foremost a practice of direct realization. It helps us to Self-recognize. It helps us to develop an embodied understanding of essence.

We don’t force ourselves to give in an effort to become something other than what we are.

When we give spontaneously, we are listening to and following natural compassion and discovering who we have been all along.

So, listen to your heart, the seat of all wisdom. Catch the fleeting moment of natural empathy and generosity. Follow that without hesitation, and you will be following yourself to freedom.

In Ma’s love,

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