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Examiner
  • Matt Beem: Those who give much receive much

  •  By the time you read these words, Thanksgiving will have come and gone.



    If your house is anything like mine, all that remains from the annual feast are the turkey leftovers in the refrigerator and the bulging trash bags overflowing the Dumpster.

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  •  By the time you read these words, Thanksgiving will have come and gone.
    If your house is anything like mine, all that remains from the annual feast are the turkey leftovers in the refrigerator and the bulging trash bags overflowing the Dumpster.
    Yet the holiday is still with me.
    To be sure, we should give thanks every day – not just on the fourth Thursday in November – for life’s blessings. Regardless of the difficulties we face, there are always things for which to be thankful. When we remember them, life’s challenges are easier to overcome.
    But I’m wrestling with something more fundamental. It’s the holiday’s name – Thanksgiving – that keeps bouncing around in my head.
    The compound word’s component parts are terms I think about often in my professional life: Thanks and giving. List them repeatedly – thanks giving thanks giving thanks giving – and an important sequence of expressions and actions emerges. When you reverse the words’ order, the essential compact of fundraising and philanthropy jumps off the page: Giving thanks giving thanks giving thanks giving thanks.
    Call me weird, but I think that’s pretty cool.
    So neat, in fact, that I Googled “bible verse giving blesses donor.” Thanksgiving, after all, was first celebrated in 1619 as a religious holiday; the food and trimmings weren’t added until 1621.
    The search led me to Luke 6:38. It says: “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back - given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
    As I read the verse in “The Message,” a modern-day translation of the Bible respected by scholars for its accuracy, I discovered the answer to the question at the heart of my rumination: Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for life’s blessings, but it also reminds us that those who give benefit more than those who receive.
    The natural high that comes from doing good – whether we’re volunteering time, lending our expertise or giving money – is addictive. We give, receive thanks and are inspired to repeat the process again and again.
    For those who resonate with the New Testament, Luke’s words clearly describe philanthropy’s dual benefit: We receive more than we give, and our personal example nurtures others’ generosity.
    If the Bible is not your cup of tea, check out the Mid-Continent Public Library’s volume of “Give to Live: How Giving Can Change Your Life” by Douglas M. Lawson, Ph.D. My dad lent me his marked-up copy shortly after it was published in 1991. It cemented my decision to become a professional fundraiser and has guided my career and life decisions ever since.
    In his book, Lawson makes a clear case for giving’s psychological and physiological benefits. He cites numerous academic and medical studies that affirm giving’s greatest rewards accrue to donors.
    Page 2 of 2 - I know what you’re asking. It’s the question you pose at this point in all my columns.
    What’s this have to do with me?
    As you move toward Christmas and the new year, I encourage you to give thanks every day for life’s blessings. But remember, too, the equation for healthy, happy living encoded in the word Thanksgiving.
    Test Luke’s and Lawson’s words in your daily life. See if giving does benefit you more than those with whom you’re sharing.
    And if it does, give again.
    Matt Beem is president and chief executive officer of Hartsook Companies, an international fundraising consulting firm. He lives in Independence.
     
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