Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What Can I Do For You vs. What Can You Do For Me

“…One with true virtue always seeks a way to give. One who lacks virtue always seeks a way to get. To the giver comes the fullness of life; to the taker, just an empty hand.” 79th verse of the Tao (as revealed in Dr. Wayne W. Dyer’s book, Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao).

The other day it occurred to me that I could group people into two different camps: those who did everything in their power to help their loved ones experience more joy and feel more love; and those who expected others to give, give, give – to the takers. The takers expected the givers to spend their time and material resources on the takers, without gratitude or without expending one iota of effort in returning that show of love and support. 

One of my Xs, when I left him, paid little to sometimes no child support but expected his kids to buy (not make) him birthday and Christmas gifts every year. He also expected all of his friends to reach out to him, though he never once reached out to any of them without prompts of some sort. I had been the one to remind him of their birthdays, so when I left, he never made another call and eventually lost all but one of his friends.

A woman I once knew expected all of her family members to call her and to visit her. When a grandchild’s birthday rolled around, she would buy that child a gift, but if that grandchild didn’t show up to receive it, she would give the present to another grandchild. 

Those are mild cases of people who belong to the WCYDFM (what can you do for me) Camp. WCIDFY (what can I do for you) people are more difficult to find, not because they don’t exist, but because they perform their kindnesses quietly. They don’t want displays of appreciation. Unlike the WCYDFMers, who trumpet everything they do for others, the WCIDFYers don’t expect applause and accolades. They just do what is right without expecting anything in return.

During my last pregnancy, when I was married to a WCYDFMer (who was that way only with me, by the way – to our neighbors he was a WCIDFYer), I sat down on the couch next to my (then) husband and asked him to scratch my back – to show just a little affection – something he hadn’t done in many years and something I was willing to try again since I was 9 months pregnant. After all, I held inside me his child. 

Though, on occasion, he would scratch my back prior to our marriage, and though I always scratched his back whenever he asked, from the weeks prior to our marriage and all the way through to the end of our marriage, every time I asked him, he refused.

He also went out of his way to accommodate our neighbors – whenever anybody needed him for any reason, he cleaned out their gutters, mowed their lawns, shopped for them, etc., but when I asked him to pick up a gallon of milk, since he was already going out to get beer and cigarettes, he refused, saying he wasn’t going to that store, so I would have to wait for him to return, bundle up all the kids and take all of them to the store with me, because he refused to babysit.

After a while I decided that never again would I ask him to do anything for me, because he refused – again – to scratch my back. Instead I decided to lie next to him on the couch, hoping he would snuggle with me. What’s that they say about insanity? You keep trying the same thing, but you keep expecting different results – every time? Just as he had done several times before, he lifted his knee and shoved me off the couch with his foot. I tumbled to the ground, 9 month pregnant belly and all.

When your relationship is so lopsided that your good deeds are never reciprocated, when you give, give, give, and never feel loved, you hopefully realize that the relationship is one-sided, and then you realize (again, hopefully), that when “relationships” are one-sided, you aren’t “relating” at all.

When I left him, I found myself living below the poverty level, so, because I spent everything I made on my kids, I felt I couldn’t give to others less fortunate than I was. In my faulty thinking I believed that, because I had no money, I was incapable of helping others, and money seemed to be what others needed most. 

One day, just recently (I’m a slow learner), I had an epiphany. I might already be giving to the people I loved! Need a sitter? I’m your girl! Want a crocheted item? I’ll make it for you. And so I had to rewire my thinking and start to believe that giving didn’t have to involve money. Sometimes what people need is a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. And so, without recognizing that I was already giving, I made a conscious effort to give – of myself and of my time.

Before this last Thanksgiving a local organization devoted to helping abused and/or homeless children held a benefit to raise money by asking people to donate items the organization could sell at their fundraiser. I brought a bin filled with lots of crocheted scarves, hats, headbands, and other items for them to sell. And I felt so good about giving! 

How refreshing to know that though I had no money, I could use items I’d crocheted or knitted to benefit somebody else. Why had I never before thought that I could help others by giving something other than money – with items I’d made? Other than crocheting hats for cancer patients, I rarely gave away my hand-made items.

Some of us, as I mentioned above, are slow learners. My thinking needed a little tweaking. I always wanted to be one of those people who could help globally – on a grand scale – and I got discouraged knowing that I couldn’t help even locally. But by donating items I made and by caring for my grandchildren when my kids need help, I’ve made at least a small contribution to some people who have needed my help. Maybe it starts there, at home and with our own circle of friends. And maybe that’s enough.

So take a look around you. Does somebody you love perform acts of kindnesses for you? Do you expect that person to continue to serve you? Do you get angry when he or she doesn’t serve you? Have you been taking that person for granted? 

How about you? Do you go out of your way to make sure your loved ones feel loved? Look at your relationship with your spouse and other close loved ones. Are they doing everything for you? Do you expect them to help you feel loved? 

Probably of everything we do to maintain our significant relationships, the one thing that is most meaningful – to them – is demonstrating our love for them. What better way for those we love to feel loved! 

While I believe we shouldn’t expect anything in return as far as material reciprocations are concerned, we also shouldn’t feel compelled to sacrifice ourselves if we feel we are being used – with one caveat – if we have children in our care, we must sacrifice our time, and sometimes our sleep, because we chose to bring our children into the world. They are not using us! They are depending on us! Giving should be its own reward, something we all discover when we decide to give – of our material possessions and/or of our selves. 

So are you being kind to your spouse, to your children, to your family, to your friends, and to others whose paths you cross? As Ellen Degeneres always says, “Be kind to one another.” And I would like to add, be a What Can I Do For You kind of person.