While I was in Mykonos, Greece this past summer I met this young man.
He sat and played his youth-sized accordion near the port that my ship was docked at, trying to get some change from the passing tourists and yacht-owners. His golden retriever cuddled up next to him and snoozed nearly the entire time he played, silently keeping him company amidst whatever hardships he and his family were likely facing. I gave this young man my last few coins I had in my pocket and went on my way, back towards the boat stocked full of all kinds of food and fun.
A few steps down the port we came across a brother and sister, both no older than five or six years old. The brother played another youth-sized instrument while the sister, smile plastered across her face, would hold her hand out to anyone and everyone that passed her by. She merely hoped for any spare change they had to offer to her and her brother. The little girl walked towards my friends and me, hand held upward and outward, smile still stuck on her face. Unfortunately we had no more change; we had all given what we had left to the young man pictured above.
It was in that moment where we each felt heartbroken and saddened by not being able to give anything that my perspective on giving radically changed. One of my friends, saddened like the rest of us, offered the very last thing he had to give to the little girl – a balloon animal. Something we saw as a small, already-deflating piece of plastic given to him for roughly 15 cents by a street performer.
Yet that balloon animal had the capacity to humble everyone who saw what happened next.
My friends and I couldn’t invite this little girl to come back on the boat with us. We couldn’t offer her a place in our house. We had no change. Yet, amazingly she took the only thing that my friend had to offer – a balloon animal – and transformed his “nothing left to give” into “everything I’ve ever wanted.”
I had never seen joy as real and large as this little girl receiving a 15 cent balloon animal. I had never seen a smile grow so genuinely across anyone’s face in my life. I had never before cried over someone else’s sheer gratitude for anything, let alone a balloon animal. I had never seen thankfulness like the little girl showing her parents, brother, and every other person passing by her prized possession. I had never seen the real meaning of giving until I sat there with nothing left to give, realizing that my nothing could be everything to someone else.
Generosity can change your whole perspective on life. Regardless of how much you have left to give spiritually, physically, monetarily, et cetera, try giving your balloon animal to someone else – give when you have nothing left to give. You never know who’s day, week, month, or even life could change, including your own.
Practice generosity. Practice humility. Practice selflessness.