August 1998 marks the first anniversary of the deaths of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana. Rather than honor their memory with platitudes, why don’t we memorialize them with our own lives by following their examples?

Their deaths remind us how a person is measured.
How do we measure a person?
Not, “How did they die??
But, “How did they live??
Not, “What did they gain??
But, “What did the give??

History does not judge them by the number of servants they had, but by the number of people they served. Why did Princess Di embrace an AIDS victim and Mother Teresa console a dying child? Isn’t it because they understood that it is far better to wipe a single tear than to shed a thousand?
We can learn from them and experience the joy of giving. To do so, we need not be as heroic. There is no need to travel to some distant land or search out the less fortunate. All we need do is awaken, to become aware of those around us. Every encounter is an opportunity to give. Our siblings, spouse, children, friends, relatives, co-workers, boss, customers, and all others we meet are eager to accept our gifts.

Sometimes we forget how much we have to offer. For example, though tired of waiting in line at the bank, we can offer the stressed-out bank teller a warm smile and the gifts of patience and understanding. We have the power to uplift her spirit and make her day! At home or in the office, our words of encouragement can plant the seeds of confidence in the hearts of our children and co-workers.

You say your teenage daughter has dyed her hair pink and there is nothing you can do about it? Well, there is. You can give her the gift of acceptance, unconditional love. You see, all through life we are told to conform to the standards of others instead of being accepted for ourselves. It starts with mommy and daddy, then it’s our teachers and peers, followed by our supervisors in our workplace. Even our boy and girlfriends (and later our spouses) get into the act! It seems as if everyone is telling us what to do and how to think. No wonder people are hungry for a little acceptance. Why not feed the hungry?

Besides patience, understanding, encouragement, and acceptance, there are many more gifts that we can give. For instance, the gift of interest. What do you imagine is the worst thing you can do to someone? It is not to hate them, but to be indifferent toward them, to display no interest. If someone were to hate you, it may be because they are envious. Hatred, then, is an expression of interest. Imagine what it would be like if no one had the slightest interest in you. That would hurt! Our gift of interest can help satisfy the craving for attention of others. Ironically, it is only after we express our interest in others that we can learn how interesting they are!

Still another gift is that of recognition. There are more people starving for recognition than there are starving for food. Why is praise so sought after? Because, like gold and diamonds, it is rare and hard to find. Can you remember how many times you were frustrated because your achievements and efforts went unrecognized? We can stop frustrating others by bearing the gift of recognition. Since praise is free, let’s offer it freely, but it has value only when it is sincere.

The greatest gift we have to offer is that of time, for time is the stuff life is made of. As our only nonrenewable resource, it is precious. What greater way of expressing love, than by devoting time to those we care about and those in need? Walt Whitman, the poet, expressed it this way, “Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity. When I give, I give myself.?nbsp; When we give to our friends, we draw them closer. When we give to our enemies, we change them into friends.
Consider also the gift of kindness. It has enormous power, as it can transform the lives of both giver and recipient. And the odd thing about kindness is, it is difficult to give away, for the harder we try, the more it keeps coming back to us.

The deaths of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana provide another lesson. They remind us of our own mortality, as if they were whispering, “The time to give is now.?Or, as Marcus Aurelius wrote in the second century, “Live not as though there were a thousand years ahead of you. Fate is at your elbow; make yourself good while life and power are still yours.?

Author's Bio: 

Chuck Gallozzi is a Freelance writer working out of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. You may contact him at (905) 273-4398 or gallozzi@interlog.com.