A long time ago, a good friend gave me a book and asked me to read. As a college junior at the time, I thought I was pretty smart, able to figure things most things out. However, Khalil Gibran’s, The Prophet, was just outside my reach.
I loved it – it made me feel smart and poetic at the same time. But I didn’t really get it. When I re-read it recently, I found it still barely outside my grasp. Perhaps that is what a good book should be.
Getting vs. Giving
During my re-read of the book, a local teacher spoke about the difference between ‘getting’ and ‘giving.’ In this day and age, most of us are focused on the former. We get entertainment from our phone, the best food around from one of the delivery apps almost whenever we want, news from tiktok.
And, it’s fun! I could be entertained for hours by all of those things. In fact, a older friend used to say he could be entertained for hours just looking through his fridge. He looked like it, too!
But, when it comes to feeling fulfilled, getting is rarely the way to go. I don’t know about you but whenever I feel like I’ve gotten enough Chinese food or cookies or internet news… I don’t feel fulfilled. Actually, I normally feel pretty crummy and certainly not ‘fulfilled.’
Life Unto Life
So, how do we get that fulfillment we seek so often? The Prophet gives us an idea:
“You often say; I would give, but only to the deserving. The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
Surely, he who is worthy to receive his days and nights is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life – while you, who deem yourself a giver, is but a witness.”
It’s a much prettier way than simply saying you get more from giving. But that’s the essence, isn’t it?
Yes, it’s wonderful getting a gift. It’s also wonderful giving one, especially one that really is thoughtful and is received with delight and surprise. Giving your time, your attention to someone results in the same (if not better) feelings. By pouring your life into someone else’s, even if just for a little while, can be the spark they need to keep going.
A Munner Lesson
When I came back home for graduate school, my mother’s mother was still alive and living by herself in the (very) small town in which I had been born. My mother, who was living out of town at the time, asked me to go take Munner to lunch at the Brazier.
I’ll be honest: I felt strange doing it and a little nervous. What would we talk about? I’d not been around Munner just by myself in a long time. I was in graduate school and had a lot going on.
And, we had such a good time. She was so happy to be out and about. I heard stories I’d never heard before and laughed a lot more than I had expected to. We rode by a few of her older friends’ homes and stopped to say ‘hello.’ We ran by the grocery and visited a few more places important to her.
When I left, she gave me a big hug and told me to come back soon. On the one-hour drive home, I didn’t play the radio or listen to a book. I simply watched the fields and trees and skies and felt like I floated home.
A few days later, I received a note in Munner’s thin handwriting that basically said ‘you made my day.’ My first thought was, no, it’s the other way around. I felt so full, so content for days after those few hours together.
Looking back on it, my time with Munner was what Gibran was talking about: “life that gives unto life.”
Meaning & Purpose
And, when it’s done well, that’s what camp does, too. It’s all about the campers and the staff and the relationships and connections that they build over a few short weeks in the hills of Pennsylvania. They give each other time and laughter and attention and friendship.
We all ‘get’ as well – it’s a cycle, of course. But the focus is on the giving.
And, by doing so, you get two things that lead to more fulfillment and long term happiness than anything else: You get meaning and purpose.
Want to know a secret? This is not something that only happens at camp. Yes, it’s easier there because, well… that’s the whole point of the party. But you can take what you’ve practiced at Weequahic and put it out into the little world around you back home.
Weird? Maybe. Worth it? Completely.
Have a great weekend!