Listening Post: One lesson in giving

Busking. Photo: Sarah, CC some rights reserved

We’re coming into the home stretch of our Fall Fundraiser, which will wrap up on Saturday, and at this writing, we’re more than $100,000 short of goal. But I’m not worried. I’ve learned a lot about giving, through living within the gift economy for almost a dozen years here at NCPR. We always ask, and you always give. We get there together. It just takes a little faith.

There was a time when my faith was in short supply. I had a hard time figuring out when to give, how much and to whom. One day sometime in the ’90s I was in NYC walking the neighborhood where my friend David lived. The homeless population was evenly distributed, about one per block, and David stopped by each of them, called many by name, and would chat for a minute before giving each a small gift.

I said that I always had a hard time with panhandlers. Did they really need it? What would they spend it on? Would they start to follow me around? David said he gave to everyone who asked, if he had anything to give. “Asking is hard. Why would they ask if they didn’t need it,” he said. Good question.

I took David’s lesson to heart and have since become what some would call a soft touch. I keep cash in my pocket all the time. Buskers–I throw it in the guitar case. I always get the poppy or the pink ribbon or the white cane. I give to public media, my college, my church. The kids can wash my car to fund a field trip, the cashier can always get me to cough up for St. Jude’s. And the panhandlers can see me coming. Do I feel put upon? No. Actually, I feel great. To me, giving feels a lot better than I felt when being the anxious judge of the needs of others.

Pass along any lessons in giving that have come your way, preferably in the comment section of the NCPR donation form, but it’s also always nice to hear from you in a comment below.


2 Comments on “Listening Post: One lesson in giving”

  1. Kathy Clarke says:

    Very well said, Dale. Your comments hit home and should be widely published!

  2. Martha Foley says:

    You make me think of the closing words of the Dalai Lama’s talk at Middlebury last Saturday:

    “If you can, help other. Serve other. As much as you can. That’s the proper way to lead a meaningful life. So at the end, you feel no regret.”

    (The rest of Sarah Harris’s story is at

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