The 5 Secrets World Changers Know about Giving

“Please! Me! Please, please, please!” The village children, with an eagerness bordering on desperation, pleaded for the gifts I had for them.

You see, I had just come down from summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. But these children were not new to me. I had met them the day that we had signed in at the gate to climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.

They knew from long experience that they could come here and beg the climbers and that those climbers would give them treats, or trinkets, or items of clothing.  The children had so little that they were excited to get anything.  I had a little Ziploc bag with peanuts in it just inside the front zipper of my backpack. I knelt down on the ground, took off my backpack, retrieved the Ziploc bag, and as I opened it, they put their palms out for the peanuts.

But they were staring intently at the baggie, and purposely dropping the peanuts I had given them.  Then they would eagerly reach out again.  Very quickly, I realized that they were fascinated by the Ziploc bag.

They spoke very little English, and I was certainly not able to speak their language.

But I desperately wanted them to know something:  I knew that every sock, every Kleenex, every snack, every single thing inside my backpack was inside Ziploc bags. I wanted them to know that I only had one bag for them today, but if they would come back in 10 days, I would give them all of my Ziploc bags.

You would have thought that I promised them a trip to Disneyland with their excited squeals!

They never left my mind as we trekked up through the rain forest, across the Alpine desert, up the glaciers, and all the way to the summit. They never left my mind in the two and a half days it took us to descend.

Not only did I save all of my Ziploc bags for them, but I collected them from the team of Air Force scientists that were my climbing partners. 

When we came through the gate, the children were waving at us.  However, their mothers were also there.  The mothers did not quite understand what their children were trying to tell them what they were waiting for.

I was ready for them! I took my backpack off and began handing out bags. You would have thought I was passing out $100 bills!

OK, I confess – I could not hold back my tears. At that moment, those children were heavy on my heart. I’ll never forget one little girl.  After she took her Ziploc bag from my hand, she turned back around to wipe away one of my tears.  One of the most touching and human moments of my life.

I learned something deep in my heart about giving that day. I shall never forget the lesson. Never! Never! Never!

The life-long understanding I gained that day made clear the huge significance in all the giving I had witnessed in my world-changing mentors. 

I want to share that understanding with you so that you can have all of the great benefits that come with giving!

Here are five lessons that world changers know about giving: 

1. World changers know the connection between giving and happiness.

Lessons from the Giving Tree

Most of us are aware of the story of the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. In that story, the tree gives, and the boy receives.  Logic would tell us that the boy would be happiest.  But that is not the most important message.  The message is that the tree ended up happy as well in the end.

The lesson from world-changers and from research, is that this is more than just a story!  Dr. Steven Taylor at Beckett University in Leeds, England, conducted a study to determine whether wealth made people happier or not. What he found was surprising. They found that happiness was determined more by what people gave, rather than what they had.

2. World changers know the connection between giving and love.

Then there’s the story of the Gift of the Magi. I clearly remember reading this for the first time as a fifth-grader. Even at that age, the story had a deep and life-long impact on me.  The story set my focus on giving as much as any lesson I learned.

The story is legendary.  A woman loved her husband so much that she sells her long beautiful hair to get money to buy him a gift.  He had always wanted a gold chain for his watch.  She bought him the chain.. At the same time, unknowingly, the husband wanted to buy his wife a beautiful silk ribbon to tie back her beautiful hair. He sold his watch to get the money.  They loved each other so much, they sacrificed what they held most dear in order to make the other happier. What a beautiful story of love!

Research in neuropsychology has confirmed the connection between giving and love. Searching for a gift sets the neurotransmitter to think positive thoughts about the recipient. Further research indicates that the gratitude and excitement of the receiver affects the giver as well. The feelings of love felt by the giver during the search for the gift are driven deeper into the soul of the giver.  Feelings of love come from both the search for the gift, and from the excitement of watching the recipient’s reaction to receiving the gift.

It’s never too late to start giving. And as you will learn below, it’s not the expense or extravagance of the gift that increases love in both the giver and the receiver. It’s the neurological thought process that went into the giving.

3. World Changers never steal anyone’s blessings. Yes, it’s better to give than to receive.  But world changers know that when we don’t receive, we might be stealing someone’s blessing.

I learned this lesson at my Mamma’s house when I was in the third grade. I loved spending my summers with her. 

It was a beautiful summer morning, and we had just returned to the house from picking strawberries. I had gone out to feed the goats, and when I came back in, she had a little plate of strawberries with whipping cream on top. She asked me if I would like to have hers. I was taught well.  I knew the right answer. I said, “No, thank you! “

At that moment, she swooped me up into her arms and put me up on the kitchen counter. Then she put the strawberries and cream on my lap and handed me the spoon. At the same time, with her delightful giggly voice she said to me: “You can’t steal my blessing! “

I had no idea what that meant.  But she explained that she had prepared a second plate for herself. She said it delights others when you receive what they give you.  So don’t ever steal anyone’s blessing! That made perfect sense to me. Although I love giving, I’ve also had to learn to be a grateful receiver.

Many of us get stuck on the proverb that says it’s better to give than to receive. I believe that proverb completely! However, it never says, do not be a grateful receiver! World changers indeed love to gift, but they have also learned that gracious receiving is a great blessing to the giver!

4. World changers know that the key to increase is in giving more.

There’s an old proverb that says this in such a powerful way:

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full — pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. 

Scientific research actually substantiates this old proverb.  

In a study looking at the Forbes list of billionaires, those who gave the most percentage of their income not only stayed on the list year after year, but their wealth increased in proportion to their giving. In addition, those who fell off the list for many years in a row were those who dramatically decreased their giving.

World Changers do not give to increase their wealth.  But giving of any sort (time, money, gifts, etc.) simply does result in a dramatic financial increase for them.

5. World Changers give gifts “that keep on giving!”

Let me clarify: this does not mean that world-changers do not give consumable gifts.

One of my greatest examples comes from one of my favorite mentors. It was a number of years ago, and his career had blossomed to the point that I doubted that I would ever get to spend any one-on-one time with him and his wife again.

But one Christmas, I got an envelope from them that had an interesting set of cards inside. One was a generous American Airlines gift certificate. The second was the business card of his travel specialist. The third was a beautifully laminated photo of lobster and salad (Two of my favorite foods!) Finally, there was an event ticket. 

When I read the card, I learned that they were inviting me to any of their events in the upcoming year. The event, hotel, and travel were on them. Nine months later, I attended one of their always-sold-out events and then stayed over to have dinner with them two days later.

It was during that dinner that he challenged me to look at some new horizons and directions. Shortly after that, I made a major business change that has been, and continues to be, amazing!

That gift has been giving for over ten years.

What gifts can you give that will keep on giving? It’s not about the size or value of the gift. It’s all about something that will keep on giving!

I know that you know a lot about this because you are a world changer. But my question to you is this: who’s world can you change with your giving?