(the illustrious erikeff's post has become lost in the aether. Until we can locate it, I'm re-posting his essay here:
That word is particularly relevant this time of year, as many of us engage in the annual ritual of exchanging gifts. If you are like me, you struggle a bit with the disconnect between the beauty of the tradition and the rabid commercialism which tries to subsume it. Every generation tends to think that this tension between the act and the object is its own fault—that we are the ones who finally let go of the true meaning of giving. I admit, when I see folks lining up to do their Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving, or when I stop to ponder the depth and breadth of modern merchandizing, I’m tempted to believe our generation is guilty as charged.
However, this tension is nothing new. I watched the original “Miracle on 34th Street” a few nights ago with my family (speaking of traditions), and that film is a pretty clear indicator that our parents and grandparents wrestled with the same concern.
Of course, we can go further back. Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” was first published in 1843. The character of Ebenezer Scrooge perfectly personifies humanity’s worst instincts when it comes to charity. And Dickens himself drew from much older tales and traditions to craft his novella.
So if our current predicament is nothing new, if humans have always stumbled along the line between giving and getting, then what hope do we have for finding balance? For me, the answer is really quite simple. As soon as I stop thinking of the problem as universal and begin to define it as personal, I realize the solution is entirely under my own control. Instead of blaming the culture or the commerce that drives it, I can evaluate my own motives for giving and define that act for myself. In a system based on supply and demand, commercialism is the response to the call of materialism. My own obsession with stuff is one small log on the fire of consumption.
I need to give. We all do. But how I give and why I give are the true measures of my generosity. Instead of emphasizing the object, I choose to emphasize the act. Money may be the currency of exchange, and things are its most obvious manifestation, but the act itself is the true measure of my worth. The way each of us gives defines who we really are. When it comes to exchanging things with each other, intention is everything.
But the most profound forms of giving have nothing to do with buying or spending; giving is not about things. The most we can ever give is of ourselves—our time, our talent, our concern, our love.
When I consider my own tenure at SolarWinds, I feel blessed to be able to contribute to a team that I admire so much. Each on of us brings something unique, something special, to the enterprise. I readily admit I know very little about IT. Fortunately, we have many content experts on hand to fill that need. However, I do know a bit about video production and in that way I can contribute to the larger effort.
Showing up to work for a team reminds me daily that giving is a reciprocal arrangement. When all of us give, all of us receive. SolarWinds is filled with talented people who inspire me to do more.
And for that, I give thanks!