“We can only really give what we first possess. If we do not have love in our lives, it is hard to extend love to others.”
Tong Yee, member of the Families for Life Council and founder and director of The Thought Collective, was sharing with us his thoughts about giving.
Giving with Gratitude and Compassion
To him, a person’s motivation for giving is just as important as the act itself.
While it is possible for a person to give out of obligation, guilt or even fear, as Tong Yee pointed out, “the kind of giving that we find to be sustainable and even contagious, is the kind that is inspired by gratitude, compassion and health.”
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However, even Tong Yee, who is regularly involved in volunteer work and social impact initiatives, acknowledged that giving generously can be difficult.
Speaking from experience, he shared that “people who truly need our giving can actually demand a lot from us.” In fact, one poignant lesson that he has learnt recently is that it is important to stay in good health and be wise about giving, in order to make it sustainable.
And giving need not only be in monetary terms.
“Many of the issues we face as a society today demand that we give beyond money. We need to extend our skills, our perspective, our trust, and our generosity. And all these things must take time and investment on our own part to build up, so that we can then extend (our help) to others,” he said.
Igniting the Spirit of Giving
So, what can parents who wish to nurture the spirit of giving in their children do?
For Tong Yee, the best way to pass on values such as giving to the next generation is to model them. He recounted how, as a teenager, he was told by his teachers and mentors that values are ‘caught’ and not ‘taught’.
Candidly, he shared, “I have found that all the values that I try to teach my own children, when not practised myself, go out the proverbial window. But the values that we do not really teach but demonstrate through our everyday lives, such as forbearance, listening, compassion for others, leadership and giving – these are some that have passed on to our children.”
Nurturing the Spark
He also had a word of encouragement for parents struggling to motivate their children to think about others.
“While giving from gratitude, compassion, and service are seen to be desirable, and giving from pity, sympathy and obligation are seen to be not, it is important to understand that the former takes much more time, and maturity, to develop … Be willing to work with those emotions and slowly nurture them into compassion, servitude or generosity.”