My husband's job took him to southern California for a few days. Our friend Randy heard he was coming, and offered to drive him around, take him sightseeing, to church, to the store.
I thought he was being extremely generous, but he said, "I've decided that whether someone is doing something for me, or I am doing something for them, either way, I have love. I don't worry anymore about whether I'm getting love or giving love. As long as I'm willing to give, I have love, and that makes me happy."
I thought about that conversation for days. What a great outlook. No keeping score, no sense that anyone owed him anything. He was just happy to give. And it reminded me of something Jesus said. He told his followers to "be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45).
I have to confess that most of the time, when I do something for someone else, I feel as if they ought to return the kindness. And if they don't, I've often felt rather put upon. It doesn't seem fair that I should have to be so nice and they don't. It's also kind of silly to defend my right to be selfish or unreasonable. What's the point? All I gain is the privilege of sharing in the misery of living selfishly.
I don't want to live like that. I want more love in my life, not less. I find the idea that I can choose to have a life filled with love, regardless of what anyone else does, extremely liberating.
So I've been testing out Randy's philosophy. An acquaintance asked if I'd help her with a move - just load a few things in my car that she wanted to give away, and drive them a few blocks away to a thrift shop.
I had a lot of other things I could have been doing with my day off, but I wanted to be a good neighbor, so I said yes. As people moving often do, she had underestimated how much she had to sort and pack, and how long it would take to get this done. The afternoon dragged on. I was tempted to feel "put upon."
But I thought about Randy and his magnanimous spirit. And I decided that helping a friend, even if it took longer than I'd planned, was something I could do with joy and satisfaction. I decided there was nowhere on earth I would rather be at that moment than lightening her load and letting her feel loved and cared for. My sense of burden lifted, we finished the work, and lo and behold, all the work I had waiting for me back home did get done in its own time.
The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, included in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" a chapter titled "Marriage," which is rich with insights into relationships. Here's a beauty: "Human affection is not poured forth vainly, even though it meet no return. Love enriches the nature, enlarging, purifying, and elevating it" (page 57).
I've often wondered whose nature she was referring to. Does love enrich the nature of the giver, or of the one who fails to return the love? I like to think it's both, but I do know that the satisfaction that comes from loving without keeping score, without looking for something in return, is deeper, steadier, and more lasting. Randy was right. When we give love, we have love.
Though I speak with the tongues
of men and of angels,
and have not charity,
I am become as sounding brass,
or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift
of prophecy, and understand
all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith,
so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity,
I am nothing.
And though I bestow
all my goods to feed the poor,
and though I give my body
to be burned,
and have not charity,
it profiteth me nothing....
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three;
but the greatest of these is charity.
I Corinthians 13:1-3, 13