“Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now” Annie Dillard, The Writing Life, p. 78.
This is not only good advice for writers, but for all artists, for scientists, for believers, for all.
Some of us hoard our way through life: waiting for the right moment, the right person, the right opportunity to give. But that tendency is at cross purposes with a true gift – at least a spiritual gift. A spiritual gift comes unbidden from a spiritual giver who is not looking for a perfect person, but a person in need. When need announces itself it is time to give: a word, a picture, a gesture, a hug, a hope. Now the astounding thing about giving gifts in this key is that the giver gets more than she gives. Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and we can only imagine that he spoke from experience.
Of course our experience isn’t only that it is hard not to hoard, but it is also exceedingly hard to receive (taking, of course, is much easier). To receive, to receive the blessing that attends generosity’s upending of parsimony, that is difficult indeed! We are embarrassed by the wonders that wind their way to us when we give. It may be more blessed to give than receive, but it is surely more humbling to receive than to give! Yet the paradox is that when we give, we receive and so find ourselves in face of the realization that we were truly poor when we hoarded.
Give. Truly this affords us a richer life – but it comes at the cost of being counter cultural. After all, many voices announce scarcity as the state of affairs in our world. Yet the astounding testimony of those who visit the so called “two thirds world” is that those who have the least give the most. Those who have next to nothing know that what sustains us in times of trial is community and community comes by sharing: our goods, our words, our wonder, our fear, our faith.
How might you move beyond a posture of hoarding this week? Will you dare to share a poem with a friend? A meal with a stranger? A hug with someone who hurts? “Give it. Give it all. Give it now.”