Tonight I witnessed something particularly ordinary, but interesting nonetheless. A man in the theater parking lot where I was walking got out of his car and immediately crossed over to the other side to open the door for his wife. She walked out without even so much as a thank you and just moved past him. He stood smiling the whole time.
Some may think, “Why does he put up with that? He shouldn’t do that if she’s not going to appreciate it!” She offered him no thanks, no gratitude, and nothing in return. And yet, he was still happy to do it. Although it may seem difficult to believe at first, this small, simple act showed me so much unconditional love. His actions did not come tagged with a condition or an expectation. He simply loved his wife and wanted to do something nice for her. No strings attached.
Often times I find people struggling to give without expecting anything in return.
We may not like to admit it, but many times we may get lost in the art of giving. We may try our best to do what we feel is right for the other person, regardless of how they feel, or to decorate our actions with flourishes that beg to be seen. If our gift goes unnoticed, we may feel hurt. We may secretly hope we will be repaid in some way or other, either by spoken gratitude or returned favors. Almost everyone is guilty of this at some point, and we must realize that, with these habits, we begin to lose sight of the very purpose of our giving: to tend to the happiness of another soul.
When we learn to give unselfishly, we learn to truly love. I’m sure some would argue that they do not deserve these “one-sided” efforts and that all of their gifts and kind actions should be met with appreciation. First of all, “should” is a terrible word. There is no such thing as what should or shouldn’t be in regards to how people understand and receive your material or immaterial gifts to them. Appreciation is nice, and cherished when given, yes. But, that should not be our goal if we strive for a deep, unconditional love of another human being.
In relationships, love shown freely on one end is often gladly returned, and appreciation will come in ways we will not be able to see if we are too busy searching for what we believe we are entitled to. Everyone appreciates in their own way, ways that may not always please us. We must learn to accept this and understand that the act of giving is not intended to please ourselves. Love without boundaries. Give without terms. Seek an ability and opportunity to care for someone’s happiness purely for the sake of making them happy. Once you are at peace with this idea, everything else will come naturally. Like the man in the parking lot, you will surely gain your own happiness in return.