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Hip Sobriety School, Day 36

"Giving is how I keep it."

Somewhere in cyberspace I stumbled on an interview with Neale Donald Walsch, the Conversations with God fellow. The big takeaway from that hour-long talk was something I know and buy into and believe, but it can be so tough to practice because it flies in the face of human logic. If we want more of something, we need to give it away. When our heart is crying for love or companionship or a life partner, we need to shower love and care on others. If our finances look like the Great North American Train Wreck, we are supposed to be as generous as possible.

Holly's message was an echo of Neale's give-to-get formula but she took it one step further: What we give IS what we get. It might be criticism, negativity, impatience, harshness, or intolerance. Or it might be kindness, sweetness, gentleness, patience, and understanding. We've all heard the story about a newcomer asking an old-timer what the townspeople are like. The old-timer asks, "What were they like in your last town?" It didn't matter how that question was answered because at the end the old-timer always said the same thing: That's exactly how they are here, too.

Our earthly conditioning tells us the world operates in a Have-Do-Be formula: We have money, we can do or buy what we desire, and now we can be happy. But Neale suggests that we start following a Be-Do-Have pattern. BE happy, peaceful, generous, and kind. Then DO the things that naturally flow from those states of being—because that's the way to HAVE a cup running over with joy, love, fulfillment, and abundance.

Several years ago when our nation was slogging its way through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, our Unity minister told a story of a family in our congregation whose father had just lost his job. Working in a real estate support industry, I was one of the first to join the jobless pack. I knew firsthand how easily that event can ravage the emotions and plunge the mind into panic, chaos, anxiety, terror and catastrophizing. Job loss is never easy but it's very bad news in an economic climate where everyone is being laid off, entire companies and businesses are dying, and no one but no one is hiring.

I met my crisis by drowning my panic and worst-case-scenarios in wine, but this family huddled together and hatched a Be-Do-Have plan. They started by focusing on the rest of the world and realizing how truly blessed and wealthy they already are—the BE. Then they moved into DO by buying an extra large nut butter and jelly at Costco and a couple of loaves of bread and making sandwiches to distribute in the park where so many homeless gathered. The entire project from start to finish had them on a group high, and this picnic in the park became their exciting new Sunday lunch routine.

Within a week or two, people driving and passing by began to stop and ask questions. Some of them offered donations for supplies, but a few others actually joined in the fun by showing up with their own sandwiches and beverages and fruit and snacks. The party was growing in size and spirit! And then...

I don't know. I have no idea what happened next or how long this went on or whether it continued to evolve. I don't know what happened to the dad. Did he miraculously land another job? How much did that family lose before things turned around for them again? Did they become discouraged with their Mother Teresa approach to adversity and pull back? This is one of those "choose your own ending" stories because it was all too fresh and new for any Ta-Da! Victory! conclusions.

For my money, I believe the right things happened at the right time and the road somehow rose to meet them—however that unfolded. I believe this because those things happened for me, and I never fed the homeless or even had a passing thought to reach out to others. I was busy stewing and stressing and worrying and wringing my hands and filling my recycling bin with way too many glass bottles.

In times of great need and reversal and even loss, people often repeat that old saying about one door closing and another opening. No one ever talks about the hallway or that lag time in between. That space was mostly hell for me but I have a hunch our little sandwich-making family filled it with fun and joy and peace and hope and great memories. So let's ching-ching our flavored fizzy water in a toast to BE-DO-HAVE!

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