Seven Questions On Giving Time

Posted by Nipun Mehta on Dec 7, 2007
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Healing Life Styles and Spa Magazine recently interviewed me about the merits of giving the gift of time over money.  I've never read the magazine but the topic was definitely interesting.

Here are my seven answers to their seven questions:

1.      How is spending time on gifts more beneficial than spending money?

In the moment when we spend money for others, there is the deep joy of expressing gratitude, of imagining the recipient's delight and of silently recognizing our interconnection.  It's beautiful.  Yet, it only lasts for that moment.  Instead, when you give time and allow yourself space to experience the process, you witness a long series of those joyous moments.  If spending money is generosity, spending time is like generosity on steroids. :)

2.      Can you please provide some examples of how to spend time? How are these just as rewarding (if not more rewarding) as purchasing a gift?

The minute my mom gets invited to a baby-shower, she'll start knitting two receiving blankets -- one for the child to be born, and another one as an anonymous gift for an unknown newborn in an underprivileged neighborhood.  Practically every mom who receives the baby-shower gift, with a handwritten story about the fate of the twin-blanket, is in tears.  And so is my mom.  Yes, you can buy a blanket from the store, but when you've spent your own time, when you have spent hours wishing well for a child the world hasn't even seen, it create a deep strand of connection that is fulfilling for both  the receiver and the giver.
3.      How can the art of giving be carried out beyond the holiday season and used year round?

In our agenda-driven lives, we often forget that gift giving is innate to the human experience and it can be giving season everyday!  Simple acts of service are always open to us, if we simply look for them.  Even otherwise, birthday makes for a great excuse for pay-it-forward experiments!   For my cousin's 10th birthday, he called a dozen of his friends for a "Super-Soaker Sunday" party; they ran around and played with water all morning.  And then, in the afternoon, we held a "free car wash".  The kids drew some banners, made up slogans to chant on the streets,  split up into pre-rinse, soap, rinse and drying teams, and had a ton of fun.  Inevitably onlookers asked, "So why exactly are you doing this?"  "Oh, it's my friend's birthday and we're practicing generosity."  Needless to say, all the car owners, the parents, the kids -- everyone -- had a memorable day!

4.      With busy schedules and limited time, how much time do you think should be dedicated to shared family/friend time to reap the benefits?

More than the amount of time, the sincerity with which we spend our time is far more important.  I remember a friend of mine giving me a gift of a story one time -- driving up the freeway tollbooth, the driver behind him became very visibly upset thinking that he had cut him off.  He could've yelled back, but when it was time to pay the toll, he instead paid toll for that car behind him!  "That's my contribution to peace," he proudly remarked.  Underneath that story was a subtle transformation of two lives, and that was much more valuable than a Macy's gift card.

Giving time doesn't necessarily take more "time"; rather it requires a shift in one's  mindset.  The simplest thing everyone can give is the gift of a commitment to a value -- practice meditation daily, work out three times a week, donate money to a charity every month, whatever it is.

5.      If someone isn't very creative, how can he or she find ways to experience the benefits of spending time with others?

When you give someone a gift of time, they won't check the fabric on the tie or the brand of the toaster or the memory on the iPod.  No.  Instead, they will await the story of your transformation, smile at the honesty of your voice, and give you a hug no matter what.  What you may lose in creativity, you make up for in sincerity.

We had a friend who loves to talk; most people don't have the patience for her monologues or tirades.  For her birthday, though, one of my friends just went to listen to her.  Truly listen.  The following day, he wrote up a full-page thank-you note about all the things he had learned from that conversation.  And at the end, he simply wrote, "Happy 60th Birthday!"
6.      How are these ideas more memorable than spending money?

When we give the gift of time, the ideas grow into stories.  Our xBoxes will need to be upgraded and our Ralph Lauren shirts will eventually wither, but our stories will be a continuously refreshing reminder of our interconnection with the abundance of life.

I remember visiting India when I was 13 or so; riding on my friend's mini-motorcycle, my stomach felt a bit queasy and we stopped.  I started vomiting.  A passerby, who seemed to be a poor man riding on his bicycle, stopped to give me a lemon.  As I sucked on the lemon and felt better, I noticed that man on the bicycle was already on his way.  No hi, no bye, just raw kindness.  Surely, that half a lemon will stay with me a lot longer than anything I can buy at the mall.
7.      Anything else you think needs to be said about spending time and not money.

Giving money has a price.  Giving time is priceless.

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Comments (22)

  • malini wrote ...

    I thought spending money is more valuable than time. Giving money has a price. Giving time is priceless. WoW it's wonderful. The wordings are really a eye opener. thanks a lot.

  • Steven Crisp wrote ...

    Great answers Nipun.

    And what you have given to us, with your time to answer and to post, is an alternative perspective to keep in mind as something of a holiday balm.

    A balm to the consumer-oriented message many of us have mindlessly adopted through our TV, magazine, and, increasingly, societal norms and cultural expectations.

    Thanks for the reminder. Thanks for the examples. To help (re-)awaken us to the things that really matter.


  • Aziz wrote ...

    The importance of of time stands par against all other so called precious things. To me spending time for reasnons best serving your soul and the well understood "innerconnections" has no match a rebound can pay. The meditation is the best example to spend time for procuring innner satisfaction.

  • Sue wrote ...

    Thank you for your wonderful insight into giving of your time message. I always believe it is better to give than to receive, but to give something that you put a lot of thought into and doesn't cost anthing is immeasurable to the receipant and the giver.

  • Jagdish P. Dave wrote ...

    I enjoyed reading your relections on giving something from the heart with no expecattions in return.Such giving itself is receiving something beyond things. A timely message when we equate time with money and money with time. I am sharing this wonderful message with my grand children and many other children working on a Peace Project. Thank you Nipun.

  • Conrad wrote ...

    Nipun, thank you for your time. I am a better person because of you. Peace to all.

  • marsha wrote ...

    This is lovely Nipun. Thank you. My husband has said to me several times - "I may not always be able to give fiscally but I can give my time to others". I will share your words with him. I know they will be appreciated.

  • Tesha wrote ...

    The part when you talked about the person who paid fro his toll and the car behind his, really touched me. I will purposely set out time time bless others, especially in trying situations.

  • gayathri wrote ...

    Very profound Nipun! i have very often heard this phrase 'time is money', and when such phrases are believed in and given effect, the result is a one dimensional society and the interactions that flow from it.
    you give us a breather/refresher when you say "time is priceless" - indeed that is the true nature of time. the best part is it is in our own hands to make it priceless; the examples quoted (Ma's blankets, cousin's birthday etc etc)reflect the immense joy in making the time in our hands priceless.


  • srs wrote ...

    How beautiful! I am completely awed by reading these thoughts Nipun! I used to keep wondering if in this deadline-driven world, does anyone really think about the value as compared to time?! and you gave me the answer! Thanks for sharing these wonderful thoughts.

  • Kris Venkatappa wrote ...

    December 11, 2007.

    "Time is money". When Money is lost nothing is lost! When time is lost every thing is lost!! If we consider these slogans commonly known to most people, Time has more value. Also Time is dath! With in the term of Birth & Death, if time is spent for the benefit of others it is Heavenly and is memorable.

  • Bonnie wrote ...

    A timely reminder in this materialistic world. Reminds me of Jesus' words - don't put your treasure where rust and moth consume! This is a good meditation. Many thanks. Bonnie

  • peevee wrote ...

    Hi Nipun, thanks for the lovely insight about time.However,from the various comments of readers, I feel that the importance of giving money has been altogether ignored by most of them, whereas you have nowhere suggested that giving time is the substitute of giving money.I feel one needs to use his discretion carefully and give money and time based on the express need of a demanding situation. Giving money and giving time are both complementary to each other.Christ said ,"It is more blessed to give than to receive. " This no doubt refers to money and so many people including me have experienced the truth of Christ words in their lives on implementing it by providing money help to the needy.When someone goes to give money to a needy person he is also giving his own time to help him .May God bless you richly..With regards, Peevee

  • Bob wrote ...

    Like you said, time is priceless. I got a few guitar playing friends together to have a "jam session" at a local nursing home. After the first session, which was a little rough I might add, one of the residents asked if I had any grandchildren around the ages of 6-10. When I said I did, he told me to wait, and he went to his room to get a wooden horse stall which he had made. I was speechless by his generosity. His gift will be something my family will cherish for a lifetime. .....and it all started with the gift of time.......

  • Anon wrote ...

    Giving time - each day! Wow, check this out at Health Education Library for People, Mumbai, India. I am a frequent reader at this place and you must meet the person who 'helps' the doctor owners to run this place. She is herself a very accomplished banker who has quit work and is now helping out in afternoons. She is always there helping readers get knowledge about health matters, be it prevention or cure; always guiding the staff on how to work smart, increasing the business prospects of the library. God knows how many she must have helped, she never seems to want anything from anyone. When asked why she is doing it, she smiles - and it is enough to make your day. Her name is Anjoo - meaning 'one who lives in ones heart'.

  • Phumelani wrote ...

    I enjoy running,I ran few marathons in my short life, to me is something that connect me to the ALMIGHTY. While doing my track,a group of runners came to me asking for assistance. Spending 15 minute with them everyday has made me appreciate the time much better. They have been trying to convince me to do coaching more professional and make money out of it.But to me time I spend with group is more precious than what money can by. We can't buy time but we can always share it. I remember when I was growing up my dad and I we used to take a walk. ask him why we always walk, the unswer was very simple and honest '' spending time''

  • krishan lal chhabra wrote ...

    It is a great idea ; no amount of money can buy worth the valuable time spent in giving small pleasures to someone.

  • Bhanu Pyde wrote ...

    10/10 for Nipun. Nothing more to add...

    Stay on! Stay Bright!

  • ik wrote ...

    giving is living,show some love

  • Darshika Chamari Lokunarangodage wrote ...

    I am married with two Kids. Eldest is a son and other one is a daughter. Both of two under 05 years old. My son always request to me buy a Foot Bicycle. But I haven't money to buy a bicycle. Because I am finding a site help us. Please help us.

  • Rashmi wrote ...

    Great post Nipun - there is so much clarity and profoundness in the thoughts you have expressed - am sure it would make a difference,even if its a slight one,to whomever reads it.

    Have a great life - keep up the good work of posting such articles.

  • sumit wrote ...

    excellent phase it iis more use ful for our young genereation who feels money matters in real friendship