Reflections on giving plus meditations on Veterans Day

Excerpt from Second Inaugural Address
… public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation … Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully … With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. — Abraham Lincoln

On Giving

It’s the same struggle for each of us, and the same path out: the utterly simple, infinitely wise ultimately defiant act of loving one thing and then another, loving our way back to life… Maybe being perfectly happy is not really the point. Maybe that is only some modern American dream of the point, while the truer measure of humanity is the distance we must travel in our lives, time and again, “twixt two extremes of passion–joy and grief,” as Shakespeare put it. However much I’ve lost, what remains to me is that I can still speak to name the things I love. And I can look for safety in giving myself away to the world’s least losable things. ― Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give … You often say; I would give, but only to the deserving, The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and nights is worthy of all else from you. And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream. See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life-while you, who deem yourself a giver, is but a witness.― Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving. ― Mother Theresa

If nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that—warm things, kind things, sweet things—help and comfort and laughter—and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all. ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess

Speak the truth, do not become angered, and give when asked, even be it a little. By these three conditions one goes to the presence of the gods. ― Buddha

Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose? ― John Wesley

Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun. If you do not, the sun will soon set, and you with it. ― attributed to Marcus Aurelius

For so many centuries, the exchange of gifts has held us together. It has made it possible to bridge the abyss where language struggles. ― Barry Lopez, About This Life

Practice giving things away, not just things you don’t care about, but things you do like. Remember, it is not the size of a gift, it is its quality and the amount of mental attachment you overcome that count. So don’t bankrupt yourself on a momentary positive impulse, only to regret it later. Give thought to giving. Give small things, carefully, and observe the mental processes going along with the act of releasing the little thing you liked. ― Robert AF Thurman

It’s bad enough in life to do without something YOU want; but confound it, what gets my goat is not being able to give somebody something you want THEM to have. ― Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory

Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, when I give I give myself. ― Walt Whitman

How would your life be different if…You decided to give freely, love fully, and play feverously? Let today be the day…You free yourself from the conditioned rules that limit your happiness and dilute the beautiful life experience. Have fun. Give – Love – Play! ― Steve Maraboli, The Power of One

Giving yourself some loving attention is not selfish. It is sensible. If you feel loved and cherished–even if it is only by yourself–then you will have more love to give to others, too. ― Penelope Quest, Reiki for Life: A Complete Guide to Reiki Practice

On Giving Too Much

Helping and giving are character strengths, as far as I’m concerned. But sometimes our helpful intentions give way to dysfunctional helping and giving. The solution isn’t to stop helping altogether; it’s to set helping boundaries when telltale signs of unhealthy helping appear. — Psychology Today

Generous giving comes from a generous place, which implies that you have taken care of your own needs and can put forth energy toward others. It comes from a full heart. Over-giving, on the other hand, is not the ultimate form of selflessness. Instead, it essentially comes from an inability to receive. That means you give, give, give because you think (or hope) it will be appreciated, or because it makes you feel good about yourself, or because you feel morally obliged to. The truth is, if you are unable to take in love, attention, or help from others and accept it completely, you are giving from an empty heart. Think about some of your relationships and try to be honest about whether your giving is from a generous place or a depleted one. Generous giving feels light and joyful. Over-giving feels burdensome because it is a one-way flow of energy. — Karen Kleiman

On Being Expected or Required to Give Too Much

It is wrong to ask for more than you give freely. In this way, we come to resemble what we hate. ― Stephen R. Donaldson, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever

One must be poor to know the luxury of giving. ― George Eliot

Oh! if the good hearts had the fat purses, how much better everything would go! ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Every man has within him only one life and one nature … It behooves a man to look within himself and turn to the best dedication possible those endowments he has from his Maker. You do no wrong in questioning what once you held to be right for you, if now it has come to seem wrong. Put away all thought of being bound. We do not want you bound. No one who is not free can give freely. ― Ellis Peters, The Potter’s Field

… officials of the day, instead of helping the widows in need, were perfectly content to rob them of their livelihood and inheritance. The system was corrupt … The widow gave all she had, and as quoted before, perhaps she did not eat for days afterwards. This is not something to esteem … treasury … has become an institution that, rather than protecting widows, exploited them. That this poor widow gives everything she has is not a sign of her generosity so much as a sign of the dangers of her conditioning to officially sanctioned devotion. — GotQuestions.org

The mother’s battle for her child with sickness, with poverty, with war, with all the forces of exploitation and callousness that cheapen human life needs to become a common human battle, waged in love and in the passion for survival. — Adrienne Rich

In war, the strong make slaves of the weak, and in peace the rich makes slaves of the poor. ― Oscar Wilde

I do not deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation and oppression of my people by the whites. — Nelson Mandela

On Receiving

Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving…. Accepting another person’s gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you. ― Alexander McCall Smith, Love Over Scotland

There is a very real relationship, both quantitatively and qualitatively, between what you contribute and what you get out of this world. ― Oscar Hammerstein II

Justice for Veterans and the Vulnerable: A Veterans Day Reflection (excerpt) — Bruce Epperly

… Instituted in gratitude for victory in World War I, Woodrow Wilson made the following affirmation regarding Armistice Day, the precursor to Veterans Day: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

While such words can be seen as platitudes, they remind us that “peace” and “justice” should be the goal of all national policies. They also remind us, in a time of growing individualism and me-first politics and economics, that national health depends on sacrifice — not just in times of war, but in our civic responsibility, human rights, and tax paying. Ironically, some of the people who most vigorously wave our flag are the most self-interested when it comes to our nation’s responsibility to support its most vulnerable citizens.

Veterans Day is about gratitude and stewardship. On Veterans Day, we proclaim our gratitude to those whose service in the military has secured our freedoms through the years. Whether or not we approve of our nation’s foreign policy, we need to support the everyday people — mostly working class, often minority — who fight our nation’s wars. We need to say “thank you.” But our thanksgiving should lead to action, both in support of the well-being of veterans, especially those who have been injured or traumatized by war, and in our own commitment to the common good and our nation’s care for its most vulnerable citizens, those for whom our soldiers sacrifice.

It is easy, as the prophets and Jesus both noted, to speak of sacrifice, without making the commitment to sacrifice for the well-being of our neighbors. When Veterans Day is understood in the spirit of the biblical tradition, it reminds us that there is no such thing as rugged individualism or absolute property rights; everything is a gift from God to be used for the well-being of others as well as our own kin. Sacrifice is not just the responsibility of veterans; it is required of all who would follow the way of Jesus. In the spirit of Wilson’s proclamation, justice and peace should guide our national and personal decision-making. Accordingly, remembrance of the sacrifices made by veterans challenges us to ask: Do our actions promote the overall well-being of our nation’s peoples and this good earth? Do we focus on our own welfare to the exclusion of our neighbor? What are we willing to sacrifice so that others may live abundantly? God’s vision of abundant life is always about “us” as well as “mine.”

So, on Veterans Day, let us be grateful and let our gratitude inspire us to generosity and commitment to the well-being of our nation, most especially its most vulnerable citizens and veterans who suffer the ravages of war. Then, our love of nation will take us beyond nationalism or self-interest to the affirmation of our role as God’s partners in healing the earth. ###

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