You are at the office. You and your team have been working overtime, trying to increase sales for your business. The early indications are that the strategies you have implemented are working. Sales seem to be up, but you won’t know for sure until you get the final report for the quarter. Your boss asks to meet the entire team for lunch to discuss the report.
After everyone has assembled at the local pizza place, your boss takes out a folder and asks for attention.
“I am happy to announce,” she says, “that sales are up 46% for the quarter.”
After the applause dies down, she says, “Now for a little surprise.”
You hoot and holler with the rest of your team, wondering what surprise she has in store.
“Each one of you…” She pauses for dramatic effect. “…and your spouse, will be going on a three-day Caribbean cruise at the end of this month.”
The reactions begin.
Will you react with the Takers? Or will you react with the Givers?
The Takers React
“Are you paying for our plane tickets to get there?” asks Robert.
“Yes, plane tickets are paid for,” answers your boss.
“What about gas to drive to the airport? Who’s paying for our gas?”
“Each couple will be responsible for their own transportation to and from the airport.”
“So it’s going to cost me money to take advantage of this little reward?” persists Robert.
“ I knew there had to be a catch,” says Suzanne. “And what about child care? Are you reimbursing us for babysitters?”
“Excuse me, but I just went on a cruise last year,” says Jacqueline. “Can I just have the money you would spend on my trip instead?”
Your boss looks increasingly uncomfortable.
“I’m not married, so can I bring someone else, or can I have the money that my spouse would have cost if I was married?” asked Lawrence.
“How many days off work does this entail, and how are we going to be compensated for our lost work hours?" asks Suzanne.
“Cruises make me sick,” says Lisa. “Can I go to Vegas instead?”
By this point your boss is sorry she ever spent the last few days planning this surprise for her employees. She’s ready to call off the whole trip. Until…
The Givers React
“Well I think this sounds like great fun!” exclaims Mark. “I have never been on a cruise.”
“It will be so much fun!” agrees Jodi. “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we make a list of all the people who need child care, and then see if we can combine sitters?”
“Oh that’s a great idea! says Jan. “I just have the one little guy so maybe we can save on sitter costs if we go in together.”
“That might work with the gas situation too,” says Dirk. “I’ll make a list to send around to see who wants to car pool to the airport. I’ve got a van that seats eight. We can split the gas costs.”
“These are great ideas,” says Mark. “I know everyone will be busy packing the night before, so I’ll have a potluck open house at my home. People can just drop by and grab some food and not have to worry about making a dinner while they’re getting ready to go.”
Your boss looks at them and smiles. This trip might be salvageable after all. Whose side were you on?
In most situations in life there is an opportunity for you to be a giver or a taker, a positive force or a negative force, lightness or darkness. Could you almost feel the lifeblood being sucked out of the room when you heard the reactions of the Takers? Were you thinking of people you know who react in exactly that way, no matter what the situation? Do you want to be around Takers? (Both the Takers and the Givers were based on people I know. I'll bet you know some Takers and Givers in your own life.)
Are You a Giver or a Taker?
Are you always early for work, dates, meetings?
Or do you consistently show up late for everything, forcing others to wait, to restart the meeting, to call to see where you are, or to make excuses for you?
Are you self motivated? When there’s work to be done, do you start right in, with the end goal in mind?
Or do you wait for someone to motivate you, to offer incentives, to give prizes or rewards before you’ll put in your best effort?
Are you the lender, when others are in need?
Or are you the borrower, always needing money, tools, a ride?
Do you offer emotional support to others?
Or are you always the one needing support, because something bad happened to you again?
Are you self-sufficient?
Or, do you feel it’s someone else’s job to take care of you? (Your parents’, your employer’s, the government’s)
Do you give your employer your best effort?
Or do you feel your employer “owes” you something for your services? (internet access, cigarette breaks, time for personal calls)
Are you the parent to your children?
Or do you expect your children to parent you or to be your emotional crutch? (Mommy has another one of her headaches so make your own dinner, Daddy feels grumpy when he gets home from work so go to your friend’s house, Mother doesn’t get any “me” time so she’s going out, Father had a good life until kids came along, etc.)
Are you accountable for your own actions?
Or is someone else always to blame? (Your parents were mean to you, or it’s not your fault your work isn’t done because your co-workers keep talking to you, or your boss just doesn’t understand your special needs.)
Is life full of good things, happy people, exciting events and meaningful moments?
Or do bad things always happen to you? Are other people just “lucky?” Is life one soap opera after another?
What Happens When a Giver Has to be a Taker?
Life happens, even to Givers. You may lose your job and have to be on food stamps for a while. The one tool you need is the one that your brother-in-law has. Your spouse becomes disabled and you need a shoulder to cry on. Does relying on someone else for a while turn you into a Taker?
No. Everyone in the course of life is either a giver or a taker. What matters is how you spend the majority of your time. Does every day involve more giving or more taking?
I read an article recently by a Rabbi Yoni Posnick, who addresses this very thing. (He got his inspiration from another Rabbi—Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler.) To quote Rabbi Posnick:
“What happens when one giver gives to another giver? Inevitably the giver becomes a taker. Therefore Rabbi Dessler adds a third category, the receiver.The receiver receives from other givers what they wish to give and, in return, reasserts his role as a giver by saying “thank you.” Expressing appreciation converts every act of receiving into an act of giving. By doing so, you have given a heartfelt expression of goodwill to the other.”
The Art of Gratitude
To avoid being continual Takers, we must be grateful for the people who surround us. Take a moment to ponder those who are deserving of our gratitude. Have you ever thanked:
Your spouse for cooking a meal, taking out the garbage, spending time with the kids, or cutting the lawn?
Your boss for your job?
Your children when they do their chores without being told or when you see their kindness toward a sibling?
Your co-workers for being pleasant to work with?
A cashier when she double-bags those heavy juice bottles?
Your minister, priest, rabbi, for a touching sermon?
Your parents for all they have done for you?
A teacher who believed in you?
Your neighbor who shoveled part of your walk too?
Your friends for making life bearable, and laughing with you?
Your siblings, for loving you no matter how big of a jerk you were as a child?
Training our Children to be Givers
In high school, we had a mandatory marriage class. Our teacher, Father Ramaeker, impressed upon us the following: “If you go into a marriage saying everything will be 50/50, your marriage will fail. You must go into a marriage expecting 90/10, that is you give 90% and expect only 10% of your partner. If all people entered marriage with that in mind, there would be no divorce.”
How do we ensure that our children are Givers when they grow up? How do we make sure that they are not continually the Taker in a marriage, a job, a friendship?
According to Rabbi Posnick:
“It is our responsibility to train our children to be “givers.” They should
not be allowed to merely “take”---here is the car, here is the credit card,
here is some money---with little or no appreciation or positive expression
of gratitude in return. This fosters an attitude that life is about “taking”
and it most certainly carries over into marriage.”
It not only carries over into marriage, but also our work relationships, parent/child relationships and friendships. Raising a child with an entitlement mentality is a form of abuse. The child who grows up expecting everything to be handed over is socially crippled for life. The little girl grows up expecting her every whim to be satisfied by her husband. Or she believes the commercials that tell her to spend all the money she has shopping because she “deserves it.” Or she can’t understand why she gets fired from job after job, blaming her employer because she can’t be expected to spend every minute at work actually working.
The little boy grows up railing at the government for not providing health insurance, or railing at his employer for firing him for being late, or railing at his wife for not working enough hours.
So, what is it? Shall we strive to be a community of Givers or Takers? Will we raise our children to bless others or to be “entitled?”
What can we do today, to be a Giver? What giving actions are your trademark?