Sunday, December 2, 2018

A Pause for Reflection: Giving

Angela Almond at Tracing Rainbows  is hosting a Pause In Advent, every Sunday during December for a moment of reflection.

We are all rather busy throughout the year, but, we seem to be even busier in December, when so many of us prepare for the holidays, whether it is Chanukah, which begins at sundown, tonight, or Christmas, or the coming New Year's Day celebrations.  Sometimes, a pause is just what is needed at such a busy time; to catch our breath, to reflect, to contemplate, to truly understand why we do what we do. 

Often, we do things by rote, especially when it comes to the holidays (whichever one we celebrate), without much reflection.  We already know what is expected of us, what needs to be done - writing out and sending holiday greetings, decorating our homes, buying or making gifts to give, planning and preparing special meals, etc.   It has already been done so many times before that it is almost as if a script has been written and given to us and all we have to do is just follow it.  How often do we pause and reflect on why we do what we do?

The tradition in my household, in December, is the year-end almsgiving.  It is a tradition my mother began, the year my step-father died, in the mid 1980s.  It is a tradition I have continued to the best of my abilities.

But, why give an almsgiving in the first place?  What is the significance?  At the heart of an almsgiving is the notion that the giving of alms fosters generosity, a willingness to share a portion of what we have (and not just any old portion, either, but, often, the best), which, in turn, fosters less clinging to what we have, less hoarding of what we have, less attachment to our possessions.  I hold it as a way of giving thanks for the blessings we've received during the year, as well, and a way of transferring of merits to departed loved ones.  There is also the hope for another blessed year to come.

In its own way, an almsgiving entails a certain amount of work - there is the general cleaning, of course, but also seating arrangements, the covering of chairs with white cloth (to cleanse and purify them), the preparation of a special meal, the preparation of the alms to be given, and all done according to a time table (the monks are obliged to consume their meal before noon).  Sometimes, in the middle of all the preparations, one might wonder why go through all the work?  Wouldn't it be easier to give a donation to the temple or a charity and be done with it?  Upon some reflection, I've recognized that the effort that goes into the preparations is part of the giving.  Not only are we giving of our material possessions, we are also giving of something that is possibly even more precious these days - our time and effort. 

The act of giving is elevated by what is being given and we strive to give that which is most precious to us.  Whether it is the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that three wise men of the East brought to gift to a Child born in a manger, or the time and effort I put into preparing an almsgiving, or the gifts we exchange with family and friends, we give what we can because we want to, and not because it is expected of us.  That, in my opinion, is the real reason for giving. 

I'm glad I was given this opportunity to pause and reflect.  May you also be blessed with a moment in which to pause and reflect.


  1. Very nice! Anything worthwhile takes work! Andrea

  2. This year I think I have done a lot of reflecting, especially as I head towards the end of the year. The main work of getting ready for the holidays is done for the most part. I have made more of my gifts this year which has meant giving more time and effort into gifting. After having considered selling my house, I realize that I don't have to collect any more possessions and I have either sold or given away a lot of them. As I have been deep cleaning I have thought of different things I can do by myself to make my surroundings more comfortable. I am not talking about material possessions, but rather some paint, plastering and trim that I can do myself. I have a gift card to Home Depot with which to buy supplies, and if I work slowly away at some things, I know I can do them.

    If not a lot of money, I do have time and some skills on my side. I should not squander those but put them to better use.

    1. Yes, you've done a lot of reflecting, haven't you? I am in awe of all what you have done this year, Susan, both in terms of decluttering and what you have done by yourself! You certainly have the skills! I know I can paint, but I don't know if I know anything about plastering and applying trim! It sounds like you are going to be busy, next year!

  3. I agree, that effort is the extra, the care, knowing that we haven't thrown money at a cause unthinkingly but taken the time to do something thoughtfully, kindly and slowly. Visiting as a fellow Pauser!
    Beautiful post!

    1. Thank you, Kezzie, for visiting and commenting. :)


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