Lessons from my mom, Part III: It’s about giving, not about getting

This is Part III in a four-part post. Read Post I and Post II here. 

“Kara, these ingredients must have cost a fortune. Can I please pay you for it??”

I turned to my friend-slash-coworker Amanda with a you must be kidding stare. It was Inauguration Day in DC, with half the city shut down and the other half in complete chaos. Our marketing agency, not exactly a company to operate at half-speed, instructed each employee to find a “creative way to collaborate with your teammates,” in lieu of commuting to the office.

At a company-wide meeting that Monday, I raised my hand and said, “If anyone’s looking for something to do on Friday, I’m making brunch at my apartment. We’re having quiche.”

I started cooking at 6:30AM. In a company of just nineteen people, five us gathered around my dining room table for a roasted veggies, fruit, and two versions of paleo, dairy-free quiche.

“Amanda,” I said, “I love cooking, and I love cooking for people. Just let me do it.”

Lesson Three: Life is about giving, not about getting.

I live in a city where time is money and people burn through those funds. Everyone’s focus is zoomed in on the side hustle, getting a bonus, and advancing their personal career. And sometimes, that get-aheadness sinks from your professional to personal life.

Listen, I love money. I think money is great. Money supports my out-of-control morning coffee habit, my parking ticket emergency fund, and my gym membership. But when it comes to the people I care about, sometimes I just can’t be bothered. I don’t want to agonize over the splitting the check or getting paid back. I just want to make and enjoy the memories with my family and friends.

You have so much to gain from what you give away.

“So what do you have going on today?”

“Well,” my mom started, “I just baked about two-hundred and fifty cookies.”

I almost dropped the damn phone. “Mom. What do you plan to do with almost 300 cookies????”

“Well I made cookies for the third graders last week, but then the fourth graders were like, ‘Dell! Where’s ours?’ so I found this recipe that’s kind of like a Twix bar—“

For as long as I can remember, my mom has given everything she has without expecting anything in return. While my coworkers worried about me making a single brunch for their enjoyment, my mom has given out thousands—I just told you about the 500+ cookie ordeal—of free treats, meals, and whatever else to students, athletes, and friends.

To my mom, everything besides your immediate needs is just excess.

Each December in my hometown, there is a free, holiday dinner for senior citizens. Supposedly, the high school students from the area churches are responsible for it. Yet, each and every year, my mom and her friend Mary Olson—both of whom have children pushing thirty—spearhead the whole ordeal.

In the early years of the Holiday Dinner, pumpkin pies were donated or purchased by kids and their parents. Somewhere along the line, my mom decided this was unnecessary. Instead, her solution was to pick a truckload of apples each fall, buy a sickening amount of flour, eggs, and sugar; and makes forty-five apple pies from scratch. She donates each and every one, without seeking reimbursement for her time or the price of ingredients.

It drives my dad and I nuts.

I can remember one day last fall when my coworkers and I were eating lunch. The idea of a company-wide potluck got tossed around as a team-bonding activity. My coworkers were up in arms at the thought of having to purchase their own ingredients. As I sat at the table, all I could think was, “If my mom were here, she would make dinner for all twenty of us without blinking an eye.”

It’s not about compensation, reimbursement, or doing “what’s fair.”

My mom lives by the creed that life is better given than taken away. It’s not about compensation. It’s not about what’s fair. It’s about the simple fact that each of us are given more than when we could possibly use in one lifetime. Beyond our simple needs, everything else is just excess. And that excess will always be better spent on someone else, rather than ourselves.

So pick up the tab. Make treats for your office. Donate to charity. Offer your time. Clean out your closet. Don’t worry about the cost or being reimbursed, because if you are sitting on a laptop reading this, you already better off than most people.

In the end, you will always receive more from what you give away.

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