The Gift of Giving

By Keshava Betts.

About eight years ago I had the blessing to witness first hand the principle that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Though that concept can be hard to grasp, it is easy to feel.

When I entered junior high school I began volunteering once a week at a nearby special-needs classroom. For two hours I’d help them learn math, english, and other classroom topics. I really enjoyed my time there, due to the outpouring of love I received from the students. They would hug me at the end of the day, or spontaneously during our work, and tell me how much they liked having me there (I had a hard time getting one student to do his math because his arms were always latched around me).

Their constant acts of affection were very touching, but my heart was brought to its knees one day when I was about fourteen. The class had seen in a local newspaper that I’d won a music competition, and they insisted that I bring my cello the next week and play for them. I happily obliged. I played for them, they applauded, and I left. It seemed like nothing out of the ordinary.

There was a boy in the class who was severely impaired. I’m not sure what ailment he suffered from, but he couldn’t walk, talk, or even eat. All he could do was push a few buttons on his wheelchair. One button meant “Yes,” one meant, “No,” and the third button was his special button that he could record anything he liked on, in order to communicate with others. This boy never smiled, never laughed, and I can’t say that I remember him ever looking happy.

When I returned the following week, the boy started yelling in excitement when he saw me. His one moveable arm was waving about to get my attention. The whole class grew silent, and the teacher told me that the boy had something he’d like to show me. He pushed his special button, and an excerpt of the song I’d played for them the week before began to play. A look of joy spread across his face as he closed his eyes and swayed his head with the music.

I was absolutely floored. The teachers told me he’d been playing that excerpt practically non-stop, and that they’d never seen him so happy. My heart felt as if it was going to burst. Later, I told my parents that seeing him so happy had been a greater prize than all the money I’d won over the years.

As Yogananda said, “Seek the happiness of others,” for in the act of giving, and serving others, we can forget our little self for a few moments and expand our hearts, one step at a time, ever closer to the Infinite.