Posted: February 7, 2011 in gratitude
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One day, in high school, at lunch, I put a coin in the gum machine in a drugstore.  I turned the crank, the gum fell, but not the coin, so I wiggled the crank and the gum just kept coming out. “Humm,” I thought, “I just won the gum lottery.” 

I was feeling grateful then, so I just emptied the machine. It seemed meant to be. Then I went back to the school. But pretty soon I got bored with my gum wealth and gave some gum balls away. I think this created a spirit of mass generosity in the student body and soon  my friends and I were throwing gum balls, from an upstairs window, onto the heads of students below.

Think of it as a kind of Marxist revolution, a proletarian redistribution of the wealth, and it was going really well until I heard a voice behind me,  yell, “Hey!” It was the principal. Oddly enough, he seemed upset. I think, perhaps, he felt left out.

So, anyway, he panicked and he kicked us all out of school. It seemed a bit rash to me on his part, but I learned a lesson from that. If you throw gum at school, invite the principal to join you. And never, ever be afraid to share your gum.

It has been said that the divine smooches the cheerful giver.  I like that; it makes me want to change, to get smooched, to smooch others, to be  happy, by giving. This is it, the thing, the essence, the really gone girl, the madly free bad boy, to let it rain down, from our hands, the gum, the moolah, time, love, generosity  — from each hand, cheerfully. And also, at the core,  to never let anyone stop us from giving – not grumpy, stingy principals, not our own shriveled hearts, not anything.  I want it; I want to relax into unselfishness and throw good stuff in the air and treat someone else and be happy in giving it away.  

For Christmas a few years ago, my wife and I bought my mom and dad, tickets to a local theatre. It was dinner and a Christmas play at the beautiful, classy Hotel Del Coronado. We were excited to surprise them; we could hardly wait to take them there and deposit them in the lobby with the huge, gorgeous Christmas tree and tell them,  “You are here, for dinner and a play.”  When they came back, they enthused, “Oh the five course dinner, the prime rib, the chocolate covered strawberries, and the play — we had a wonderful evening.” Then we regretted not using the tickets ourselves.

No, not, not even close. Even though we had gotten none of this for ourselves, we were so happy for them, and it was so fun to treat them that we couldn’t have been more pleased in the giving.  Anne Lamot says life comes down to a simple law of the jungle, “Stay calm and share your bananas.”

Sharing your bananas, I’ve noticed, is cool because it tends to give back to you, inside, a fullness, a happiness, as sense of having lived well, a calm and even a banana back.

Think children. It takes a lot of bananas to raise one, but if you keep feeding them they yield a return. “Really?” you might say: “I’ve invested in children and all I got back was a lot of bills and some back talk.”  I’ll give you this, the return on children is not obvious at first.  The U.S. Agriculture Department says the cost to raise a child to age 18 is $291,570? That’s astonishing. It’s more money than you can make in a lifetime. And this figure does not include college, which is another $291,000.

But you do get something back, something good, along the way and eventually —  in most cases, with children. My daughter, who is in college, called me this week. We talked on the phone about a date we had gone on recently, to dinner and a play, and just before she hung up the phone she said, “I love you daddy.”

Raising  her,  $291,000. “I love you daddy,” priceless!  And someday, she will pay me back, when I’m old and gum-less and she will give me a much needed hug and pat my head and say again, “I love you daddy.”

It’s good, living this way, staying calm, being happy, living by the truth: Sow small, reap  small; sow crazy big, reap wildly huge and happy.

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