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The Harmonious Continuum of Giving and Receiving

I learned a valuable lesson many years ago from a young college student who worked as an intern in my office at a local college. Several of us in the office were working late one evening to meet a dead­line when this student looked at his watch and said, “Ohmygod! It’s ten o’clock and I haven’t done my good deed yet today.”  Heading for the door he called over his shoulder, “I’ll be right back.”

None of us knew what he was talking about, so when he returned a few minutes later, we were all curious to know about this “good deed” thing.  He explained how his father had taught him to do an anonymous good deed every day and how he had been doing so since he was a young child.

“It can be anything, big or small,” he said, “but the important thing to remember is your good deed must be done anonymously.” We asked the student if it wasn’t sometimes difficult to “find” good deeds to perform.  He said he was so attuned to looking for opportunities to do good deeds, he never had any problem finding them.

He went on to give us some examples of good deeds — picking up and properly disposing of litter, holding the door open for an elderly person, giving anonymously to a charity, dropping off magazines at a nursing home, helping a stranded motorist, shoveling the walk for a neighbor, calling the local municipal authorities to report a roadway hazard or, if possible, removing the hazard yourself.  The key is to do the deed without letting anyone know you are doing it!

I asked him how he could do something for someone who was the recipient of his kindness without them knowing he was the one who had done the good deed. He smiled and said, “Well, you don’t have to tell them your name.  You just do the deed and if they insist on wanting to compensate you in some way, you simply tell them to “pay it forward by doing a good deed for someone else.”  When we asked him what he had just done tonight, he smiled and said, “Well, if I told you, then it wouldn’t be anonymous, would it?”

This incident happened many years ago and I’ve never forgotten the lesson this young man taught me.  It was actually a version of the now famous mantra: “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” Since then I have not been as diligent about doing an anonymous good deed every day, but I do them often. I have found the mere act of doing something good for someone or for the planet without anyone knowing fills me with a child-like inner joy.

A Course in Miracles tells us, “the cost of giving is receiving.” I have thus come to understand, whenever we give from our heart without expectation of reward, we always experience a positive energy exchange.  Giving is, therefore, the same as receiving — and the more we give, the more we receive. I like to imagine the joy we could create in the world if everyone opened up to the harmonious continuum of giving and receiving.

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