It’s been said that it’s not the receiving of the gift at Christmas that’s important, but the giving of said gift. Giving something to someone else helps us to overcome our nature, which is to hoard or keep for ourselves. When a baby is born, be it human or animal, the survival instinct is to retain that which is important, because of this survival instinct. Babies need food. They don’t ordinarily share what they have. Puppies all want the favorite teat. They all instinctively know that once the milk is gone, it will be a while until there is more. Hunger is a powerful motivator. Self preservation drives them in the struggle. Those who don’t prevail can die.
While the human animal is more civilized, in general, than the beasts, instincts are hard to overcome. It becomes an “Aaah” and “Oooh” moment when we see a baby hand his favorite toy to a friend, offer a bite of cereal from a slobbery hand, or a lick of a very sticky lollipop to another child. Instinctively we understand that the child is overcoming the instinct for self preservation.
It is a great obstacle to overcome to donate money, the fruits of our hard labor, to benefit others, and yet we do so with gusto as we give to churches, disease cure research organizations or other charitable groups, including bell ringers and even panhandlers. All of these acts are evidence that we are gaining attributes of the Divine.
What’s more is that when we do things to help others, rather than cringing at relinquishing our funds, we feel good about doing something for our neighbors and co-runners in the human race. It is a somewhat indefinable feeling of accomplishment. The feeling must release endorphins because doing good is addictive. Whatever the reason for the exhilaration, we like it and want to do more to feel more of the same.
We may not be able to change the world, we may not even change the people who benefit from our philanthropic activities, but in giving of ourselves, our time and our means, we slowly change ourselves from our animal instincts to the divine within.