Giving Means Showing Up

“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

They scrubbed the profanity off the wall left by vandals. She collected bags of trash alongside the road. He cooked a feast for the people with no meal of their own. They showed up when there was a need. There are many of us who show up with a checkbook or with our items to donate, but these are the people who truly show up — giving, as Gibran says, of themselves, not just their possessions. Gifts of money or possessions are important, for sure, but to give of myself is something I want to be sure I am doing this year.

“Girl I’m making him some chicken and rice and Y’all some soup…Do not even tell me no. Your life has a few challenges right now, I currently have few. I’ll text before dropping it off…” My friend, Candace, dropped everything to offer nourishment in a difficult time.  “I’m going to make you my Jewish nana’s soup and drop it off tomorrow. I won’t stay, I know you need rest. I can even leave it on the porch.” My friend, Alicia, a young mother with plenty on her plate interrupted her life to prepare and deliver a nourishing pot of soup when I wasn’t feeling well. We don’t have many times that we really need anyone to do for us, and even then we would turn down most offers of help. I am so grateful for friends like Candace and Alicia, friends who don’t ask if they can do something, they just do it.

Are you uncomfortable yet? Are you a little nervous at what I might be suggesting you do someday soon? I don’t blame you. It isn’t easy for most of us to show up with food we’ve stopped to prepare (especially if we don’t cook much, but you can still purchase someone else’s cooking), but there are other ways of showing up, and what is easy for one might be difficult for another.

  1. My husband talks a lot about not missing the opportunity of low-hanging fruit in a variety of situations, and in this case, I especially agree. The low-hanging fruit of showing up is what is easiest, and it doesn’t’ mean it won’t be meaningful. Maybe you take time to send a friend a message on social media or text or email to just say Hello! Letting someone know you are thinking about them might be a lighter version, but it is still showing up.
  2. If you know someone loves the recipe you use for a dish you’ve just cooked and have more than you’ll be able to enjoy, why not divide it into two dishes and take them a couple of servings? If you’d like to enjoy Candace’s amazing cornbread, click here.
  3. Pay attention to what they are doing (ballgames if they are an athlete, performances if they are a singer or actor), and if there is a special event they are part of, why not show up — letting them know that you are a fan.
  4. Apologize. Just because you messed up and now feel embarrassed doesn’t mean it has to be the end of things. Showing up to apologize might be awkward and you might agonize over it, but do it, even if it is just in a letter.
  5. My favorite idea for showing up is a barn-raising of old (and present-day in the Amish community). That people show up for their neighbor to build a barn in a day is just a magnificent thing. Whether it is your family or a group of friends showing up to help with a project that might be overwhelming to a friend, it might be uninvited but usually not unappreciated. When a person is dealing with an illness, the loss of a loved one, or maybe the loss of income, there are things we can do to lighten their load and their spirit.

My friends, Candace and Alicia, sent those texts at particularly difficult times in my life. No question of whether I wanted them to bring food, they just did it — interrupting their lives to bring some nourishment to mine. My friend Sarah, a high school student, showed up to help with my children after school when I was dealing with some physical limitations many years ago. Even today, we have friends who show up to pick up the mail or take out the garbage when we are going to be out of town, our children show up to dogsit so we don’t have to spend money boarding our four-legged friend, and our friends offer us their gracious hospitality. We try to show up for others, too, and we can probably do better.

How have you shown up for a friend or a stranger? How have others shown up for you? Maybe you think you’ve truly given when you’ve written a check or a nice article, but Gibran’s assertion of what constitutes truly giving should inspire each of us, regardless of our station in life, to give in new ways. I plan it for myself and wish it for you.

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