My mother believed that giving should always require a cost, not money, but a sacrifice. If you give, and you don't give a piece of yourself with it, than you've really given nothing at all.
When I was young, my mother put her belief into action. She would often reach into her empty pockets, and miraculously, she would bring forth just exactly what the other person needed. It was inspiring to me, while, to my sister, it was cause for scorn. Anything childlike and beautiful in my mother, was effectively stomped out, as though one might snuff out a candle or put out a campfire. I don't know why, because it was at these times that I loved my mother the most.
Why would anyone rather look at a pile of ashes? How could anyone not see, that by casting her down, they were killing her just a bit at a time? It is why I have difficulty forgiving my siblings, for all they did to my mother, and all they failed to do for her. My efforts were never enough for her. My mother wanted them to understand her and to love her. I doubt they ever did. Oh how I loved my mother, but she never accepted it. But still, with all of the pain and heartache of our later lives, I love her still, and I forgive her for not understanding just how much I loved her.
My spirit of giving comes from my mother's example: the day she gave a beggar my father's only suit; the Christmas in which she protected a mother mouse and her naked little newborns from harm, and she fed them until they grew up and left the nest. Birds, kittens, pups, and chicks, all were the same to my mother, God's little children who needed someone to love and look after them, and she did.
My mother was a woman who was filled with a tender heart, and it was broken repeatedly, so much so that she lost her grasp upon reality, and became a bitter old woman. But those were the later years. I focus on the younger ones, and I have tried to become the woman my mother really wanted to be.
I am my own woman, but I remember her with each event, where I am able to give a piece of myself with each act of giving. Others may be logical and say well you can't help everyone. I agree, but when did knowing the "hard" of anything stop me from investing the "heart" of everything? With every act, with every word I write, with every prayer, I leave a piece of myself. The miracle in all of this, is that I've discovered the more that I give of myself, the more that is left over for me to give again. Another saying of my mother's is giving is a reward in itself.
I've often told my children that the only thing that you can take with you when you die, is what you have given away. There are various versions of that saying, and it is nothing new. But it can be new for you, just as it can be new for me. Jesus said, that by giving a cup of water to one of his little ones, it is as though we have given to Him. As we approach this new year, thoughtfully and prayerfully, may it be so for you and for me.