My Kids Grow and So Do I


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Spiritual Tools Series, part 2: Giving Out Is Taking In

I love apply pie, don’t you? I love the taste of baked apple and cinnamon as well as the crust with its softened inside. It’s a treat hard to say no to.

With apples being the main ingredient of apple pie, who would think of baking it without apples? You can’t create an apple pie if you haven’t first stocked up on apples. Only when you have enough apples in the pantry can you bake a proper apple pie and serve it to your family and friends.

Now please bear with me as I take this one step further. Who, among all those enjoying a slice of apple pie, do you think enjoys the smell and the taste and the crunchiness of the final product most? No doubt, it’s the one having done the baking. Of all involved that person is immersed most in the process. For all appearances, after everyone has left the table, the person who baked and served the pie has given it all away. However, it is that very same person who is the prime beneficiary of everything that apple pie and the baking of it have to offer: that person, engaged in the process of baking, serving and enjoying it, is the recipient of the essence of both apples and pie. By serving it up and giving it out, that person has taken the essence in.

This principle of ‘giving out equals taking in’ isn’t only active in the kitchen. It is a principle that operates in many other aspects of life. In a previous post I related the story of my little nephew Randy who insisted on focusing on the good and lovely and was given a happy moment with a total stranger in return. Seeing the good and the lovely and experiencing it in return is a specific application, a sort of subset, of the principle ‘giving out is taking in’. It works not just with the good and lovely, but with other characteristics as well.

When my kids were very young I used to love toting whoever was the youngest on my hip during errands. I remember someone in the grocery store observing us and saying, smiling knowingly: “Happy mom, happy kid!” That statement has stayed with me throughout the years and I’ve seen it confirmed many, many times in other parents and their kids. It’s the principle ‘giving out is taking in’ in action: a happy parent gives out happy vibes; the children will pick up on that and in turn will be happy as well, which makes for happy parents. And so they come full circle.

 As a teacher in the classroom I’ve often witnessed the workings of the principle. For example, if I’m in a place of encouragement, my students pick up on that and want to give the best of themselves. Then, at some later moment, when they see that I could use some support, they’ll be more than happy to provide it. They’re actually eager to return the favor. Giving out is taking in.

Not surprisingly, the principle works the other way round as well. Children’s bath time is a good example. Often parents are in a hurry at the end of the day. I know I’ve felt hurried at that time of day: you’re either fighting the clock or looking forward to spending some quality time in a quiet living room when the kids are snug in their beds. However, if you are routinely rushed during bathing time you fail to seize the opportunity to truly spend some valuable time with a representative of the new generation. Consequently, you cannot expect your child to show you patience when you need it, such as when you’re on the phone. You may find them pulling your arm and yelling in your ear… After all, your child hasn’t been taught how to behave in a situation where they’re not in the center.

Children’s bath time is an excellent time to put the principle ‘giving out is taking in’ to work in a positive way: by role-modeling. While focusing on your child’s well-being and happiness, your relaxed presence and gentle involvement teaches them the art of allowing someone else to be in the center. You will be surprised to find one day that they will offer you this skill in return at a moment you may need it most. 

Just as the taste and smell of apple pie is yours to take in when you bake and serve it, so is your child’s courtesy yours when you’ve been able to consciously create it and send it out to them.

(Talking about courtesy and patience, there is a spiritual gift in situations when you have to wait while your personal agenda is screaming in your ear to please hurry up and get on with it. We’ll talk about that spiritual gift next week.)

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