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Nouwen: Joy in Giving

What a wonderful mystery this is!  Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.  Although it often seems that people give only to receive, I believe that, beyond all our desires to be appreciated, rewarded and acknowledged, there lies a simple and pure desire to give.  I remember how I spent long hours looking in Dutch stores for a birthday gift for my father or mother, simply enjoying being able to give.  Our humanity comes to its fullest bloom in giving.  We become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give: a smile, a handshake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life .  .  .  all of our life.  One of the most moving experiences of life is the experience of giving.

It is sad to see that, in our highly competitive and greedy world, we have lost touch with the joy of giving.  We often live as if our happiness depended on having much.  But I don't know of anyone who is really happy because of what he or she has.  True joy, happiness, and inner peace come from the giving of ourselves to others.  A happy life is a life for others.

- Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World  (Crossroad, 2002), p. 106.