“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” -Chinese Proverb
Tis the season for gift giving. This is not one of my strong suits. My wife, she is incredible. She’s thoughtful, she pays attention throughout the year, listens to your every word and is money on buying the perfect gift to meet your needs.
That type of creativity is lost on me. I tend to be more pragmatic… in some eyes, to a fault.
“Here’s money, buy what you want or deal with what you need.”
Not very sexy… doesn’t seem as heartfelt, but in my eyes, it’s the sincerest form of giving.
Or at least it was.
As the years have gone on, I have grown a bit. For better or for worse, I feel a bit wiser. I have experienced things and learned things that I perceive help me better guide my life for family, friends, and my staff. And as this supposed “wisdom” has developed, I have begun to realize the truth in the statement above.
Truly caring for someone, at the most practical and effective level, isn’t about buying them nice things or carrying them through their struggles, as much as it is about helping them progress forward , to improve, to learn to handle their own struggles, and support them as they navigate it.
I often find myself wondering what would happen if I suddenly died. Be it a plane crash, or illness, or accident, or drunken fight with a kangaroo on a mountain side…
If the people I care about rely solely on ME being there, or solely on the gifts I give, am I really taking care of them?
If I am going to protect my wife and kids, is it best to stand watch over them all day everyday (which is impossible) or would it be best to teach THEM how to recognize danger, manage fear and emotions, and learn to physically defend themselves?
If I am own a company, is it in the best interest of myself, my business, and my employees to have them rely solely on me to make decisions, execute tasks, and give orders? Or would it be best if I not only taught them from my experience but gave them permission to execute tasks and act on their own?
You see, the greatest gift (in my mind) you can give to anyone, is improvement. Personal improvement. Education. Wisdom. Self reliance. Confidence. Discipline. Growth.
If you truly care for someone, you don’t carry them day in and day out, you support them as they handle their stuff. You educate them to better handle their lives. You build them up to be more resilient, more reliable, more dependable, tougher, smarter, etc etc etc…
This doesn’t mean you don’t carry them when truly needed. This also doesn’t mean you are “weak” if you reach out for help.
No no…. this just means, true love comes in the form of building the person up and helping them to address things and grow on their own… getting them to a place they can THRIVE in your absence.
That’s true love… at least in my mind.
So day in and day out, I ask myself, what am I doing to make my wife better set up to handle the world if I am gone? What am I doing to prepare my children to attack the world in my absence? What am I doing to improve the lives and potential of my staff, my members, my family, and the people I care about?!
To me… that is the greatest gift you can ever give someone.
Be good, train hard, stay safe