Hoarding’s End

“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.”

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6 thoughts on “Hoarding’s End

  1. diannegray says:

    This is fantastic. I felt every word you wrote in this post. I’m not from a poor country, but there was a time when I was in dire straits and didn’t have enough money to feed my children. I remember going to the bakery and getting a bag of day-old bread for $1. My kids were so incredibly happy and one of them even said, ‘this is better than Christmas, mum.’ Even thinking back on how happy the children were that day brings tears to my eyes. But what came out of that time for all of us was the overwhelming urge to give to others. My three children and myself all give what we can to make life easier for people who are doing it tough. My son recently raised money for cancer awareness and received a donation from an anonymous sponsor for $100. This person may have been someone he helped in the past or just a complete stranger – we’ll never know. The rewards of giving (whether it be money, time, or love) are so much greater than taking or receiving.

    I love this post 🙂

  2. agjorgenson says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing this. You must be so very proud of your children, and grateful for these important, yet difficult learnings in life. I really like the image of “feeling every word”.

  3. This is great advice, Allen. I particularly like the line: “and so [we] find ourselves in face of the realization that we were truly poor when we hoarded.” Keep giving of yourself in this wonderful way!

  4. agjorgenson says:

    Thanks – and also with you!!

  5. diane rivers says:

    This was a great criterion for knowing when to give: “When need announces itself it is time to give: a word, a picture, a gesture, a hug, a hope.” I love that: when need announces itself.

    Thanks for a great post! (Love Annie Dillard, too.)

  6. agjorgenson says:

    Thanks so much… yes it is a tricky part of the equation: whose need is being met? Thanks for commenting!

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