Eddie Rickenbacker (1890-1973) was a race car driver and one of America's top fighter pilots during World War 1. But it was during World War II, during a review of the Pacific Theater that Rickenbacker was aboard a plane that had to crash land in the Pacific Ocean because it was out of fuel.
Rickenbacker and the seven other passengers and crew climbed into life rafts and found themselves with barely enough to eat or drink. On day three, they ran out of food entirely. But on the eighth day of their ordeal, Rickenbacker reports that a seagull landed on his head. He reached up, grabbed the bird, and wrung its neck. The men ate a small meal from the bird and used portions of its innards for bait. For the next sixteen days (they were lost at sea for 24 days!), they caught fish and used part of the fish for food and part to catch more fish. When they were rescued, Rickenbacker credited the seagull as the one that saved the lives of all the men.
Years later, an elderly Rickenbacker walks to the pier close to his home. He carries a pail of shrimp with him. As he walks to the edge of the railing, he throws handfuls of the shrimp into the air where circling overhead are hundreds of seagulls.
He does this every Friday because he remembers how one seagull gave its life so that he could live his. He remembers. That's why he gives back.
Each one of us has an opportunity to give something each day. When we lift our heads off the pillow, we are either working to get or working to give. What's funny, perhaps one of those strange paradoxes of life, is that when you spend your time giving, you will usually end up getting...and getting more than you imagined.
Oftentimes, giving gets a bad rap. That's because giving has a dark side. There are times that giving can hurts us. This is true when we...
• Give in
Giving in has a negative effect when we set our standards high, but something comes up that invites us to compromise our values and our beliefs. We go along with the crowd and we settle for mediocrity or the status quo. Peer pressure bends us to a point where we are willing to undermine our own integrity and turn our backs on our character. When we give in, we are giving power to something that keeps us from being or becoming all that we were meant to be.
• Give up
Giving up comes when the pressures overwhelm us and our motivations can't sustain us. It is the final straw, the unclimactic ending. When someone gives up, it saps their soul. It groans out of a sense of hopelessness. Giving up means we've run out of options. Giving up means we've disengaged from a situation.
• Give out
Giving out is a predicament we find ourselves in when we've overextended our resources, when we've been giving so much that we've got nothing left. Giving out looks a lot like burnout. We can only offer so much physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. When we move beyond the margins of our lives and don't do anything to refill ourselves, we are in danger of giving out.
But the dangers of giving (in those ways) are far surpassed by the benefits of giving. To be a giving person doesn't mean that one has to give in, give up, or give out. There are powerful forces at work in the world when we take the time to...
• Give away
We hold on to so many things. I've moved three times over the last five years. I speak from personal experience when I say that I have too much stuff. But for some reason I like my stuff. Even when the only time that I see my stuff is when I have to move my stuff. This only creates a bunch of boxes with stuff cluttering up our lives. But it's more than the accumulation of stuff. Giving away is about using our strengths and resources to benefit others, with no expectation that they will give anything back to us. It's when I spend my life offering what I have for the benefit of others. It is a spirit of generosity.
• Give to
The people who seem the happiest, most content, and energetic towards life all seem to have found something significant to give their life to. They have found a cause, a purpose that ignites their passions and their motivations. They have found that there is something worth dying for, but more importantly, worth living for.
This one is often overlooked, but forgiveness is a powerful form of giving (perhaps the most powerful). When we forgive another person, we are giving them grace or mercy, a pardon for the wrong that they have committed against us. In a culture that often celebrates revenge and retribution, forgiveness offers another way out. When we forgive someone, we not only free them from their debt against us, but we also free ourselves from the bitterness, anger, and ill-will we hold against the other person.
Now think about this for a moment: When we operate in the positive realm of giving (give away, give to, or even forgive), it actually empowers those on the receiving end to not give in, give up, or give out. In other words, giving in the good way helps others (and ourselves) not to give in the bad way.
How do we expand our capacity for giving?
I believe that giving is borne out of a spirit of gratefulness. Like Eddie Rickenbacker, we realize we have been given so much, and are much more apt to become givers. Eddie walked every Friday to the pier, not so much to feed seagulls, but to express his desire to give thanks.
So we must begin to answer the questions: What am I grateful for? What have others given to me? How has my own life been better because of the giving of others?
Will today be the day that you give in, give up, or give out? Or will it be the day that you connect with a sense of gratitude and give yourself away in order to add value and meaning to the lives of others?