It’s four in the morning. Tonight is one of those strange times—I don’t know why I woke at 2:30, unable to return to sleep, but here we are. I have some thoughts I wanted to share, and now seems as good a time as any.
Give, Take, and Match
Around my birthday, I think a lot about this. It’s a known, expected trend in my thoughts each year. There is a concept that the human population is made up of Givers, Takers, and Matchers. About half of everyone falls into the Match group. These are the Quid Pro Quo People that game theory talks about. These people are the standard, and will reflect the behavior they encounter.
Then, to either side, you have the other half of humanity. It’s about evenly split between people who always give or look out for their fellows and those who are always looking for the main chance to enrich themselves. Matchers will usually do a good turn in kind and almost always view it as their mission to punish greed.
Here’s a little TED Talk about that, if you’re interested. https://youtu.be/YyXRYgjQXX0
It Always Matters
I know that caring for those you know and covering your own basic needs takes priority. That’s a general consideration. But the givers among us perform another vital role—they are conduits that permit us to give or offer help beyond our limited circle.
Around this time of year, you see more of them in the world and in virtual spaces. This is the time of year associated most heavily with giving, in large part due to the Christian calendar round and the cultures shaped by that tradition, but other traditions also follow this pattern.
That means everyone is more aware of the work that Givers do all the time. They are also more likely to contribute to those efforts. But it isn’t just December or the big, grand gestures that matter. People who consciously act for the benefit and support of other living beings in the global community are always working.
The small gesture is a daily thing. They look for spaces in which they can nurture or elevate, heal or mend. These individuals act in a way that is focused on making the world a better place, one life at a time. It can seem like an endless task, and it is, but it is working.
Supporting and Refueling Givers
We can’t all be givers all the time, at least not just yet because our society rewards and protects takers. But one really important task we can all periodically take in hand is supporting the people who are. they don’t have an endless supply of optimistic energy or resources.
This year, I’ve made it my mission to give a small donation every month. While my resources aren’t appreciably different from last year, circumstances in my life have made it more feasible. I linked up with another giver, and, with the exception of September, I’ve been able to set aside a tiny sum each month since January.
That’s because my friend replenishes me in a way that has nothing to do with money. He makes me want to extend the bounty of positive feeling he offers me to others, and now I have energy to do so. I do not constantly feel strapped and running on fumes.
Facebook upon Waking
This morning, I rolled about in the dark, unable to return to sleep. Eventually, I gave up and reached for my phone to scroll through my newsfeed. One of the first posts was from a group I follow.
Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull is a rescue group out of Dallas, Georgia. It’s local. The man who founded it has done a huge deal of work saving bully breeds and other animals from kill shelters. I’m a fan of his efforts and have often extended my $10 monthly offering to his organization. He is a helper, a giver.
Because this is his nature, I should not have been surprised by his post. He’s been trying to make up for the lost fundraising opportunities that were canceled due to COVID-19, which means lots of live feeds and online events.
Apparently, he was doing one of the former when a woman commented. She said she couldn’t help because she was homeless, but she thanked him for his work on behalf of animals. Being what he is, he immediately stopped and tried to find out her details. The result is that he made a post explaining her current trouble and asking for any donations to help him help her. He planned to do what he could do for her the next day, which is today.
While I often can’t directly donate, one thing I love about the community of people that have gathered around this man and his organization is their immediate responsiveness. Whether it’s freedom rides from kill shelters, surgery needs, or fostering volunteers, people rally. They step up.
This situation, while not directly associated with the rescue, was no different. This is what I mean when I said givers are conduits for other people to be generous. The thread associated with the post was full of help-oriented questions, offers of non-monetary resources for the woman, her partner, and their dog, and yes, money was donated to help buy supplies.
Neurologically speaking, helpers/givers perform a social role that often goes unnoticed. They encourage behavior that makes us feel good. When we give or perform a service for others, our brains reward us with a hit of dopamine. We are wired to care for each other.
I hope those of you who read this will think more closely about how and when you can be givers throughout the year. This outlook can be expressed simply and with no cost—holding the door for a stranger, returning a stray cart to the corral, offering small gestures of care. We do not have to accept a society that saps generosity and rewards selfishness. It can be changed to meet different needs—that is the nature of human culture.