Several years ago, I read a book, which, as I have taught small children, impressed me. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulgham is a collection of short and delightful essays celebrating the simple joys and skills of life and relationships, skills which are commonly taught to young children in classrooms. Without those skills, life in a classroom would tend to quickly deteriorate. Without those skills, adult life, too, tends to deteriorate.
One of those skills is sharing. Every parent of more than one child has faced the task of teaching their children to share with siblings and with others. A mark of maturity is the grace with which one is able to share – not simply yield, but share. It seems to be a mark of maturity which many of us adults are still learning; perhaps the competitiveness we have been taught knocked aside those kindergarten lessons. When the unwillingness to share, or the fear of sharing, injects itself into any of the many aspects of our lives, its potential for obstructing or destroying our joy and greater good manifests.
Most religions and spiritual paths teach a form of sharing known as tithing – giving back in cash or kind, in goods or services a minimum of one-tenth of the bounty that has come to us. This is rooted not only in social justice or morality, but also in the spiritual benefit to the giver. Ideally, one gives out of gratitude, and true gratitude attracts even more good to the giver. In addition, giving or sharing is a position of strength, and contributes to a feeling of confidence and positive expectation.
Tithing, however, is not the only form of sharing. In every aspect of our lives, we are asked to share. We share information with a colleague, a cup of coffee with a friend, our or others’ joys and sorrows, food, shelter, resources with those who have not. Sisters and friends share clothes, neighbors share tools; cooperatives share food, bicycles, cars or other resources. Families share the work of living, and the raising of children. Even separated families share the attention and raising of the children. Teachers share knowledge with students, and students share experience with teachers. When that sharing, that flow, is interrupted, pain emerges.
Perhaps that pain is simply a feeling of burden – the burden of having to defend whatever one is not sharing from other people. Sometimes the pain is conscious in the form of guilt, anger, fear, or even illness. Whatever form it takes, the joy is gone from the area in which sharing is not occurring. The happiness that was expected from “having it all myself” does not appear, except perhaps as the illusion of a brief moment of “winning”. The flow of living energy is blocked; joy cannot occur.
Sharing does not mean simply yielding and letting one’s own ideas, needs, feelings go unnoticed in the process of giving. It means realizing that the Universe, Life, Creation, is abundant, and that there is enough for all. By opening the tap, allowing the goods, services, joy, energy to flow through from one to another in a constant stream, one is thereby nourished oneself. It is like the river which flows to the sea, which supplies water back to the mountains, the source of the river. Wars have been fought over water, when those upstream wish to dam the river for themselves, denying those downstream needed water.
Let us, then, open the tap of life and joy, and share ourselves and what we possess or think we possess with others. Let us find the courage to show that there is no need to put up barriers between us and others, or hang on tightly to what we have in fear of having nothing. The world can be a positive place, if we choose to look at it that way. What do we wish to create?