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GIVING BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO


One Saturday I was working in the yard, and I came walking around the corner of my house. And there was a boy there, on a bicycle. He was wearing Scout uniform, and I’m guessing he must have been about ten or eleven years old. It didn’t take me long to figure out what he was doing. He was selling popcorn. Really, what he was doing was asking for a donation, and, in return, he would give me something that I didn’t necessarily want or need. He was involved in fund-raising. He had a multicolored brochure, a clear plastic bag with money in it -- sales he had already closed, I’m sure -- and a pen handy for writing up my order.


Now, I have to confess something to you. I once turned away a Scout who was selling popcorn door to door. And I have felt bad about it ever since, not because I wanted the popcorn but because I said "No" to a child raising money for a good cause. So, on this occasion, I wasn’t about to repeat my mistake. I bought a box of caramel corn from this Scout. I didn’t even know him. I had to scrounge up the money to pay him. But, for the sake of the young man I once turned away, I made an order with this boy.


But here’s something else I need to confess. I didn’t want to do it. I did it out of guilt and obligation.


Now, there’s something patently unsatisfying about giving because you feel like you have to. Isn’t there? Whether the pressure comes from outside of you, in the form, say, of a duty imposed on you, or whether the pressure comes from within, in the form of guilt -- either way, there is no joy in giving that way.

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