I am going to assume that at some point in your lives you have given something to someone else. A piece of candy from your Halloween stash. A present on a special holiday or anniversary of some sort. A hug. A smile . . . .something! It didn’t have to be big or small. It was just something you felt compelled to give and you did. I am also going to assume that at some point in your lives you have received. Perhaps something of similar caliber to those items mentioned above.
It felt good, didn’t it? Whether you were on the giving or the receiving end, I bet it felt good!
Let’s think along the lines of something bigger . . . .perhaps you have given many hours of your free time to a cause you really believe in or maybe you have given away a favorite item to someone else who would benefit more from whatever that item may have been. And perhaps, again, you were on the receiving end of such a kindness at some point too.
Today I want to think about the really big stuff. The things or gestures that maybe are too big to be reimbursed in some way. Have you been on the giving or the receiving end of such profoundness?
Today I think in particular about a time I was on the receiving end of a gift I will never be able to repay. And I have often thought to myself, how do I (or maybe, DID I) receive this gift? It was the gift of life. I am not talking about my birthday. I am talking about the day I received my transplanted kidney and pancreas.
How do you ever thank someone for that???
This is something I have wrestled with for 15 years. I started by trying to put my gratitude in a letter to my donor family. I don’t know how that was received by them, but I can only hope they could feel the depths of my gratitude, regardless of how incompetent I felt writing those words. Then I made the commitment to do something for at least one person each day that would help to make their life even a little bit better than if they had never met me. And each day, I just try to be a better version of myself than I was the day before.
So one day, I was out speaking to a group about my transplant and one audience member raised his hand and asked, “How do you reconcile the fact that another human being lost her life and you gained yours?” That literally knocked me right off my feet. I had to sit down for a moment and really take that in. It was not, by any means, a malicious question. It was asked with the utmost sincerity and curiosity as it turned out, the audience member was awaiting his own transplant and thought about this every single day in regards to himself. Of course it was something I had thought about every single day since receiving my own precious gift of life, but it was one of those most personal thoughts that I kept to myself and tried to do the best I could with the answers I conjured in my head. And here I was having to answer to someone else now.
I think the best response I can offer (and did offer that day) is this: We all have purpose on this earth. We may or may not ever know what that purpose is, but I suppose the final purpose of my donor was to save my life and the lives of anyone else who may have received an organ from her. And I suppose a purpose of mine in this world was to receive that gift and guard it with all my might. If I had not been open to receiving, I would have deprived my donor of her final purpose here on earth.
So in receiving, we also give!