Good for the Giver

By Vita Forest


This week in class, I witnessed something again that I have known to be true for a long time.  Giving is good for the giver.

One of my students who struggles to “keep everyone safe” (by not flailing about and accidentally hitting or kicking someone else), who struggles to “let everyone have a chance to answer” (by continually calling out and giving the rest of us a running commentary of every little thing going on in his head), was given the chance to interact with his classmates without causing exasperation.  We are running a program at school where we publicly acknowledge when others help us.  This child was able to give a couple of his peers a small token of gratitude for helping him in the playground (when someone else was flailing about and accidentally hit him).  I watched as the helpers were surprised and pleased to be acknowledged, but also at the transforming quality the action had on the giver.  He was so proud and so pleased to be giving something of value to someone else.  He seemed to sit a little taller and hold himself together a little longer.

With great synchronicity, during Fruit Break we watched The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister on Storyline Online.  In this story, a beautiful fish finds fulfillment, not by being admired for his stunning rainbow scales, but by giving them away.  It reminded me of another favourite story, The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau (a book that made me cry), where a selfish king finds happiness by following the lead of an eccentric quiltmaker and giving away all his riches.

And I remember years ago, hearing an interview with actor and director Rachel Ward, and her response to the question of why she was involved with a number of charities.  Her answer was honest and surprising.  Or perhaps not.  – She did it to feel good.  I’m sure she also wanted to make a difference, and the work was important, and a need was there to be met, and lots of other worthy reasons.  But it was also about how it made her feel.

That is the secret of giving.  I have experienced this myself in contributing time or effort or money to various causes, children and endeavours.  It makes you feel happy, connected to others, part of something bigger than yourself, looking out rather than in.

Giving is good for the giver.  Perhaps we need to spread this news to the more selfish amongst us.  That if they give, they will receive something too.

What do you think?