More Than Money
Issue #34

The Art of Giving

Table of Contents

“From The Editor”

Several years ago, something unusual happened: Things began to appear in my life, seemingly out of the blue. A necklace with a heart-shaped crystal, which I had never seen before, turned up in the wrapping of a gift I was preparing to give. A book I had not bought appeared in my shopping bag with others I had purchased. It happened often enough that I could call it a pattern. At the same time, other things "disappeared": a book, a shoulder bag, a shawl.. These occurrences felt mysterious to me because the objects were here one minute and gone the next. Or not here one minute and present the next-with no apparent means of arrival or departure.

Of course, I could think of plausible explanations for all of them. A store clerk inadvertently adding someone else's book to my bag, someone accidentally scooping up my shawl in the cloakroom. but that didn't change how the experience felt to me, or how I made sense of it. Being something of a mystic at heart, I take the view that events can hold meanings that may not be readily apparent.

The puzzle was that these events did not seem coincidental; the patterns were repeated too often, and unambiguously: physical objects were coming and going. Regardless of all logical explanation, it felt almost as if they were being moved by some unseen hand, as if they were being "given" and "taken away." Like a Zen koan, the questions posed by these comings and goings jumbled my mind. What did it all mean? What was I to do with these "gifts"? Was I supposed to keep them? Give them back? Give them away? Why were some things being "given" and others "taken?"

Earlier in my life, I developed the habit of viewing events that I don't understand as if they are a dream carrying a camouflaged message. So I asked myself, "If this were a dream, what would it mean?" As I contemplated this question, these words stole quietly into my awareness:

In the land of the heart
there is no giving
and no receiving.
It is all One.

With that, all of my questions were silenced, and my mind came to rest in the quiet of the heart.

For me, those words capture the essence of the art of giving. In the land of the heart, there is no giving and no receiving. It is all One. As Wayne Muller said in a previous issue of More Than Money Journal : "When giving and receiving are done really well, the line between giver and receiver begins to dissolve a little. When you see someone throw their arms around someone else in a great big hug, who is giving and who is receiving? Both benefit." *

In this issue on "The Art of Giving," some related themes emerge: the role of connection in artful giving, such as connection to self and others, connection to something greater than ourselves, connection to forces that move us in ways we might not predict. When giving is artful, there seems to be a natural recognition of a profound bond, which causes our sense of separateness and isolation to diminish and which honors the natural dignity of both giver and receiver. Perhaps, in its essence, artful giving is heart-full giving.

In this journal issue you won't find much of the vocabulary customarily heard in the philanthropic world. You won't find a lot of talk about "effective" or "strategic" giving, about "risk and reward," or about how to measure the outcomes your giving is trying to achieve. There is certainly a place for that, but, interestingly enough, those words didn't show up when we asked people these two questions: Is giving an art? And if it is, what makes it artful?

As our interviewees reflected on these simple queries, their spontaneous responses covered a wide range of perspectives, including the importance of listening when giving, the personal authority one develops by participating in the giving process, what it takes to give together harmoniously as a family, what it can mean to give your time and passion to those you love, practical tips for giving artfully, and how adopting innovative business practices can be a way of giving artfully.

The people represented on these pages offer both philosophical musings and practical advice. You and I get to listen in as they reflect out loud about their own experiences and observations of giving. I suspect that their words speak so eloquently to us because this is a realm in which we all have profound experience. We have all given. We have all received. And we continue to give and receive every day, with our time, our attention, and our resources.

In this season of giving, I hope the reflections inside this journal will inspire you to your own ruminations on the art of giving-and lead you to greater meaning and fulfillment in your own giving process.

Pamela Gerloff

Editorial Policy: The views expressed in More Than Money Journal are not necessarily those of More Than Money. We encourage and support respectful dialogue among people of diverse viewpoints. In each journal issue, we provide a range of perspectives on a topic to stimulate reflection, conversation, and inspired action.

* From "Think Big, Think Small: Two Models for Giving Effectively," An Interview with Steve Kirsch and Wayne Muller, by Pamela Gerloff, in "Effective Giving: Finding Your Own Path," More Than Money Journal, Issue #26, Spring 2001, p. 27.

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