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How have you handled this?

Good question. (delurk)

Many years ago, when I was younger, I suffered a bout of depression that lasted nearly a year. During that time, one of the things that I found alleviated my feelings was simple acts of kindness - things like giving strangers directions, helping someone at work, taking time to listen to others or do small tasks that would make thier situations easier. It's amazing how strong the feeling of happiness you get from it is, and even more so, how long it stays with you.

I don't know where the feeling of 'I did something for you, you owe me' comes from. Maybe it's an offshoot of our tendency to react to a compliment with a compliment in return? I'm not a dyed in the wool believer in karma, but I do think that for the most part, the things we do in kindness come back to us. So when I give out of myself, It's the giving that makes me happy - the reward will come in it's own time, and if not, then the act was the reward itself.

I was in Dublin back in the eighties, at a time preceeding the current economic upturn. I don't know how to adequately express this, so bear with me: it seemed that because people didn't have as much in the way of 'things' - money, appliances, resources, what have you - there was a much greater importance put on friends, family, human relationships in general. I'd never been anywhere where the first gut reaction to strangers was kindness and helpfulness. I was there only days before I was taken in by the people I'd just met, eager to be of help, and even more so, to welcome me into their company. Could it be that, in our culture of 'moving ahead' and 'getting more', we've allowed the acquisition of things and the accumulation of status to outweigh the importance of simple 'human-ness'? I don't know.

Sometimes I get that vibe from people, that they are giving to me in expectation of return; when this happens, I tend to be very reserved in my giving to them. Maybe because I don't feel that they are acting truly out of kindness, but really using that opportunity as a means to an end they already want. Fortunately, I don't run into it too often, so I guess I'm just lucky in the company I have.

As for christmas - I have a younger brother and a cousin who, like myself, aren't always financially able to give as much as we'd like. Years ago we talked about it, and we realized that between us, the presents didn't really matter - we respect and love each other, and understand our circumstances. So when we can, we give - and when we can't, a short phone call or a card is more than enough. The amount of love we have for each other doesn't change with the size of the christmas present.

On the slipside, I also have a sister-in-law who measures everything by the size and frequency of the gifts she receives. Needless to say, I don't even make her christmas card list anymore ;). All I can do is feel sorry for her, as I imagine that list is dwindling bit by bit.

Just a few thoughts, and sorry for the long-windedness!
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