Amal Chatterjee
9 min readNov 2, 2023

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Giving with love

Source: Google photo of a happy child receiving a gift of love

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Synopsis: When you give something to someone without love, it becomes just an obligation or duty like paying your taxes or the intent of doing a favor in return for a favor received in the past. The blog looks at the idea of giving a gift out of love, but some people call it charity they do not like to take because of their inflated ego.

There was a scene in the movie The education of little tree where the boy who was given a pair of moccasins by his grandmother, met with a little girl in dirty rags and bare feet whom he gave his soft moccasins out of sheer empathy. The little girl who obviously was from a poor family, hesitated but finally put on the shoes and walked nimbly saying how soft the shoes felt.

But her father came rushing and angrily removed the shoes from her feet and threw them in the dirt saying that he did not need charity. He also spat to make his point clear. The kids were shocked and in tears because they did not understand why the father was so cruel and angry but I do so I decided to write this blog called Giving with love.

There are millions of people, some dirt poor and others not so poor who get very angry at receiving something from a kindhearted person who did it out of love and empathy. They wrongly believe that taking something from someone hurts their pride and makes them owe a return favor that they cannot afford. I have met such people in some countries and still do and feel that such false pride hurts both the giver and the taker so this subject needs some serious introspection.

Source: Google photo of people rejecting gift of love.

In our Indian culture, we are taught from our childhood that we must never ask for a gift from someone or anyone. We were told to show gratitude if someone gave us a gift out of love. But in other cultures, in other countries, a woman may ask for the gifts from her relatives and friends for her marriage in the name of practicality, so she makes a list of all things she wants so that there are no duplicates. In other countries, someone may say that his birthday is coming up so what do you plan to give him as a gift?

People always act according to their own cultural practices where others behave the same way to give this action its cultural validity while in other cultures like in India, such acts are not encouraged by the parents although there are exceptions where greedy girls ask for gifts and the greedier grooms may ask for steep dowry and other gifts the parents of the woman may have great difficulty in providing.

When the gift is demanded then it is no longer a gift of love but becomes a duty or an obligation because love and obligations are two different things. You may feel obligated to fulfill your duty, but it may not be out of love. When you give something with a hidden agenda of your own then it diminishes the value of your gift and exposes your dark side that people do not appreciate.

In the movie Godfather, the elder brother of Tony says that he helped their rival mafia people because they said that there would be something in it for him which made Tony very angry. Unfortunately, this is how most people feel these days when they openly say why they should help anyone and what is in it for them?

The false pride also makes them very uncomfortable to receive gifts so they rush to buy something of an approximate value as a return gift so that they can sleep well with the feeling that they do not owe anyone anything.

Just think of how ludicrous this behavior really is when you know very well how much help your parents gave you and how many gifts, they bought for you out of love but sadly in some cultures I now see how some parents openly and without an iota of shame or guilt say that they have helped but now it is time for the grown-up sons and daughters to pay back. In this country they demand a car and a house, expensive gifts like free ticket to visit other countries, a monthly remittance for their living expenses etc. They are unhappy if their sons or daughters return home from abroad without a huge box of gifts not realizing how great a burden their children have to bear to fulfill their demands.

In Haiti, we were informed by a child that an American woman was in a hospital who needed our help so we went to the hospital and brought her home for better care because the hospital was dirty and did not take good care of her. This help to the poor woman whom we did not know well elicited very strange comments from the American Missionaries in town. They asked if we knew the woman and if not then why did we help her? They wanted to know what was in it for us. They could not believe that we helped because it was the right and humane thing to do out of empathy for those who needed help. ( Read my blog here called Empathy and apathy.)

Now this empathy is in short supply, so people always ask what is in it for us? I understand that in some countries people are so poor that they will use any excuse to demand money from you even if you just ask for direction or something. In Haiti people will always ask for money if they see that you are not a Haitian. Some will use violence if you do not give them anything so you may find yourself in a desperate situation that you may not be able to escape from. This sort of behavior is common in countries where people are desperate because of the social turmoil due to war or civil strife.

In other countries, you may be ignored due to the language barrier or cultural differences. You will notice why everyone you meet in the USA will ask where are you from? What do you do for a living or why you speak with an accent they are not familiar with or what is your religion etc. If they are not happy with your answers, they may even call the police who will then investigate you further. This sort of behavior is not limited to people you may meet somewhere at random but even a taxi driver will start asking questions that you may not feel like answering.

So, the question is why people have become so apathetic that they do not feel like helping someone in need or distress. Why people ignore the person who has an accident and needs quick medical help. Why do they not share their food with a hungry person?

Why a policeman harasses a poor homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk and who desperately needs food and shelter but gets neither, but he gets arrested and is hauled to a police station for being a vagrant. Is it a crime to be poor? If so, then there are not enough jails in the world to accommodate all the poor people who need help. Thankfully there are some kindhearted people who open a soup kitchen for them or help them find a shelter somewhere. They do it out of love and concern for the poor and never ask what is in it for them.

In many religions, people give alms to the very poor because it is considered a good deed. My Ma always gave alms to the poor and donations to the orphanage and the temple monks. She did it because she had a good heart, but she never asked What is in it for me? The Sikh Gurudwaras in India feed thousands of people daily but never ask what is in it for them.

The animals take good care of raising their progeny but never ask anything in return. They defend them, feed them and teach them the hunting skills but they never ask them to hunt for them even if they are old and unable to hunt. But we humans are different. Some have good heart and help others without any strings attached while others are mean and demand a return for any help they may give to someone.

Once my wife gave someone her diamond ring as a gift without a second thought because she is very generous and good hearted, but the person went to a jeweler to assess the value of the ring. When told that the ring cost a great deal, she tried to return it to me saying that she could not accept such a valuable ring. I too refused to take it back but later I found the ring wrapped in paper at the bottom of my duffel bag when I was at the airport. It was a typical attitude some people assume who feel that they should not accept anything from someone even if given with love and will look for ways to pay back just to get even. When they try to get even with you then love just evaporates from the relationship leaving the good-hearted person perplexed.

As if they are making it very clear that they do not like to owe anything to anybody because it hurts their pride. It has nothing to do with love. If someone buys you a shirt just because you gave him something, the shirt feels heavy on you, so you do not like to wear it especially when you know that it was given to you not out of love but to repay you.

I have always believed that it is good to help people without expecting a return favor because expecting a return gift or favor demeans the act of giving. All religions say that your left hand should not know what your right hand is giving but how many people practice it? The best gift is the one that is given anonymously but now we see people bragging about the gift they gave to someone thus making the receiver uncomfortable.

If you give someone something with malice in your heart, then the receiver feels it and is hurt. It is said that if you give someone nectar with malice then it becomes poison but when the poison is given with love, it becomes nectar. It is just a metaphor but what it means is that a gift should never be given to someone grudgingly because it hurts the receiver.

When you help someone, you should never have a hidden agenda. Some say that they give because they want a sure place for themselves in Heaven but that is a hidden agenda, so it demeans the act of giving.

If you really care for others who are less fortunate than you, do so out of love for them. They will appreciate it more when they know that you are a selfless and good person. It is not good to have your conscience bother you that you helped because you expected something in return so even a Thank you Bless you is not necessary.

Lastly, if someone dear to you buys you something to surprise you, you may say that it was not necessary because you really do not need it. It is not a matter of pride that you are independent and would like to keep it that way. Your children should be proud of your independence and respect it because you belong to top 3 % of the world population who are truly independent. You should hope that they too become independent like you in their old age because nothing is worse than dependence on others especially if they are your children or near relatives.

There are two blogs related to this topic that you should read.The links are Getting old and Do children owe their parents?

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Amal Chatterjee

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.