Many years ago I read a true story in a GUIDEPOSTS publication I have never forgotten. One of my favorite actresses/comedians, Carol Burnet told her true story about how she got started in show business. I thought of it today and looked it up to be sure my sharing with you is accurate.
Carol was from a poor background, growing up with her mother, sister and grandmother, living on welfare. In fact, when she later became famous with a TV show of her own, that little gesture she did at the end of her show by tugging on her ear, was a private sign of affection for her beloved grandma. At the time of this incident, she was a student majoring in drama at UCLA and living in Los Angeles with her family. She and a group of her fellow drama students were invited to a party given by one of their professors and asked to perform for a group of his friends and business professionals. She recalls singing a number from ANNIE GET YOUR GUN with a fellow student. After all of the students at the party had performed a feature from a Broadway musical, the guests were served a buffet dinner. She said a kindly man came up to her, as she was standing in the buffet line, and asked her what she intended to do with her life.
She told him she wanted to go into the theater and he told her she should go to New York. She replied she didn’t have the money to get there, and it wasn’t possible at that time. He then proceeded to tell her he would lend her $1000 to get her there and to help her get started. She relays in the story she was stunned and excited but thought he might be up to “no good,” and refused him. A few minutes later he brought his wife over to meet her, probably to allay her fears. He then made his offer over again and told her what the conditions would be.
Carol states in the article, “First, if I did meet with success, I was to repay him the loan without interest in five years. Next I was to never reveal his identity to anyone. Finally, if I accepted his offer, I was to eventually pass the kindness along, to help some other person in similar circumstances when I was able to do so.”
She was to think it over and give him a call. Her mother and grandmother didn’t like the idea of her going so far away from home but she accepted the offer anyway. It was like a dream come true for her. She relates in a humorous manner that she and her singing partner, who had also been offered the same agreement, both accepted. After they left the gentleman’s office the next day in a dazed condition, they realized they didn’t have enough gas in the car to get home since the man was in San Diego and they had to return to LA. They had to find a bank and cash their checks to buy gasoline.
The rest of her story is history and for those of us who have enjoyed her talents and wonderful spirit for many years, this simply made it more wondrous. She did pay the man back the $1000 in exactly five years, kept his identity a secret and eventually came to accept his theories for herself. She shared scriptures she came across over the years about the importance of humility and privacy in giving, as stated in the Bible in Matthew 6:2-4.
Ms Burnett continued in the article to speak about the principles of giving in secret and not for vanity as well as the fundamental fact that giving to those in need in private, creates a force of goodness that is lost when one brags about one’s “good” deeds.
I have discovered this in my own life if one loses the true benefits of helping and giving to others if one goes around “tooting their own horn.” A simple act of kindness and generosity, even one that starts out with good intentions, can become rancid, self-serving and totally without the original intent, which was pure goodness. I find I must ask myself, what is the intention and secret of giving. Isn’t it to give to one in need and not to be boastful and filled with one’s own self-bloating? Aren’t you as disgusted as I when you see someone telling you all about their good deeds?
This road of giving, caring and loving has to be a free-flowing stream. It cannot be bottled up but has to keep going. I know what it is to build a dam across that flow and to become totally self-absorbed due to pain, changes in lifestyle or grief. For those of us who think we are the only one with problems, we need to get out of our own plight and take a look beyond the mirror of our own lives. Windows are so much lovelier than mirrors, don’t you think? The vision changes so much more often and that’s more stimulating, don’t you think?
Self-indulgence is easy to slip into when you feel rotten. Pain and suffering due to disease make a great excuse to forget we are part of the human condition. I often see or talk to those who act as if this pain business is a contest. What is the prize to be won? Consider it the boobie prize because you make yourself look like one when you become the center of your own universe. Isn’t it ugly and dark enough in your life?
The secret of giving is the lack of expectation of return. You don’t give for that reason because that isn’t how it works. The giving opens the doors to your life in a way nothing else can do. It’s not to be confused with karma or the boomerang affect, however it is similar.
If you’re mumbling to yourself, “What does she expect me to do? She doesn’t know how sick I am. She obviously doesn’t have as many problems as I do.”
The only answer I have for that is what possible difference could it make? If I have fifteen burdens to carry every day, burdens of pain and change forced upon me and you have 16, what have you accomplished and what have I won…or lost? Instead of counting our miseries, let’s learn to count our joys. Part of that joy is in giving.
We may have limited opportunities when we are living a compromised existence, but the opportunities for giving are endless and fall like rain from the sky. Let me count a few, by sharing a list, okay?
You and I can give:
A coin or dollar
A lift emotionally by sharing comfort or a funny incident
A bag of groceries
A large box of clothes we never wear to a local shelter
A case of soup to a local food bank
A word of encouragement
A used toy no longer played with
A conversation to one obviously heavy with loneliness
Going the extra mile
A word of thanks to the box boy who helps one out to the car
Some small gift to bring a laugh
A cake or plate of cookies
A compliment …
And the list goes on…Now it’s your turn to make your own list. You have something to give and someone who needs what you have to give. Find the secret. Blessings.