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What Are You Giving Away, and Why?

what does giving mean to you?Giving was not on my radar for the initial decades of my life. I was too busy dealing with my drama, trying to eke out a living, competing with others in a country of 1 billion, a city of more than 20 million.

For the last few years, mostly through good fortune, I’ve had a roof over my head, and food on my table.

Like everyone else on the planet, I’ve suffered my share of losses: friends and family, been bedridden for months, and mourned pets. It has taught me to see myself as I am, a traveler passing through. None of what I ‘own’ is mine. I can’t take any of it with me when I leave this world: be it the home I live in, my writing over the years, and (most painfully) the huge shelves tottering under the weight of books.

What does giving mean to you?So I’ve slowly begun giving things away, be it possessions and whatever little money I have–I don’t know if it qualifies as giving, really, or just passing things on. (When I say giving, I mean handing things over without any tangible or intangible agenda.) I’m still not giving the way I’d want to, because giving makes me feel lighter, and in the flow (so maybe it isn’t as free of benefits?).

Giving two things has proved difficult: time, and attention.

There’s just too much I want to do (Reading books! Writing books! Blogging! Saying hello to friends! Gardening! Baking!), and others I don’t (doctor visits, chores, laundry, you get the picture). All of this takes time, and swallows up my attention.

I’ve cut down on social media and blogging, but donating time, and giving attention to those who need it still seems like a juggling act.

What does giving mean to you?Been trying to do both as a blogger and writer by sending out my reading and writing gazettes: if you read or write, here’s where you can get them.

(Feedback has been surprisingly good—over a 100 subscriptions in the last two weeks alone—not based on sops, but simply on usefulness. It gives me satisfaction to see subscribers love it, share it on their social media—so I don’t know if this is agenda-free giving either.)

Another piece is volunteering: friends and family have come together to support Project WHY, but again, it is not totally selfless. Watching the women and kids smile and trying to make sure their futures are brighter brings a lot of joy, a sort of serotonin hit.

I’m a work in progress, and hopefully, given time and enough wisdom from everyone I know, I would understand and practice true giving.

What does giving mean to you? What are you giving away, and why? Has giving changed your life? How should I practice giving my time and attention? What words of advice do you have for a novice? What stories of giving would you like to share with us?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Rachna says:

    I loved reading this post, Damyanti. Yes time and attention are difficult to give away. I do try to contribute to causes that appeal to me. I have done fundraising too and hopefully sometime in the future I can volunteer as well.

  • Alex Perez says:

    An enlightened and beautiful post. So glad to have read it.

  • Library Staff says:

    Came upon this article today, which reminded me of this post of of yours from a while back, so I thought I would pass it on:

    Though after my divorce, I gave away most of my books, I still always more books than I can read (even if they’re from the library). That said however, I still have a small bookshelf of my favorite books. At least now, I can put a name to it.

  • Indira says:

    Just look around you and you will find many needy ones. Not only people, birds, animals etc. Helping in any way you can afford is also giving something from your heart. Go on doing good work, dear.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks Indira. I’m a huge believer in the importance of supporting the small, good thing. I hope to do more in the coming months and years.

  • Library Staff says:

    It was when I became a single father that giving things away, at least my possessions, really started to become a bigger part my life. Of all the things I’ve given away, the hardest thing was giving away most of my books.

    Giving money away, though I too have never had a lot, was something I’ve always done. In fact,for every Christmas since my divorce, I’ve always made two donations in each of my kids name to groups of their choice.

    These days, I’m slowly working to reduce my stuff as I work to make sure my oldest son (who is autistic) has everything he needs long after I’m no longer here. Like you said, you can’t take it with you.

  • Rahul Bhatia says:

    The best gift of giving is giving one’s time to a cause dear to you:)

  • simonfalk28 says:

    There has been a lot of ink spilled over years about how we are less giving when we are younger. Then we were still discovering who we are and what we had to offer. Plus, I think some of us (ok, insert me there too!) were a bit too needy back then to give in any significant way.
    But, you have given so much to many of us in blogworld and it is appreciated. Your work with Project Why is stunning. What a surprise they must have got when you begun to promote their work on social media so effectively. Thank you for the gift you are, as well as the words you share.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks as always, for being so kind, Simon. I think I can do a lot more with Project WHY–just need to manage my time and my health better.

  • Shilpa Gupte says:

    For me, giving things is letting go of the emotions I had attached to them. I began ‘letting go’ last year. Last year was really an eye opener for me in many ways, and the one thing it taught me was to let go, that impermanence is the order of the universe and it would serve me well if I decided to not hold on to either things or to people, however much I love them all.
    So, I give away stuff that I like but don’t use (jewellery and stuff). Stuff that I have used and enjoyed but would now like for others to enjoy (books), And, the toughest of all, I give people the chance to move away. This might sound rather melodramatic, but I have realised there isn’t any sense in holding on to anyone. Nothing and no one lasts us our entire lifetime, so let them go, let it all go.

    Giving our time and attention to someone is the best thing we could do for someone. And, you can do it if you reduce the distractions in life. We have social media and our blog to keep us so occupied, we hardly find time for others. I try and shut if all out in the evenings, when I can give my time to friends and family–the ones who truly care for me. Giving my time and attention to a social cause–that’s something I won’t divulge right now.

    You are already doing pretty well, giving your time and attention to people who need you, D. You are doing so good! And, even if you don’t agree, you are one awesome person! <3

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I know what you mean by letting go. Here are the lines from Mary Oliver that guide me in this:

      To live in this world

      you must be able
      to do three things:
      to love what is mortal;
      to hold it

      against your bones knowing
      your own life depends on it;
      and, when the time comes to let it
      to let it go.

      I do try and give my time and attention wherever possible–the practice is to try and give as much as possible–without expectations. Even the expectation that my time and attention will lead to results for those I’m giving it to. Haven’t been very successful so far, but I’m trying.

      Hey, I absolutely agree I’m an awesome person lol—what else are friends for if not to tell me how awesome I am, from time to time.

      Let’s talk this week if you’re free. Huge hugs!!

  • macjam47 says:

    I try to give my time and attention to my family and friends, especially those who are suffering from illness, loss, or are alone. It is difficult because I have way too much on my plate, but it is something I enjoy doing.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Michelle–your blog has given me so much over the years, and your support has added so much value. I know you enjoy helping others–it shows in your writing.

  • marianallen says:

    Don’t overthink. You give to benefit others; your joy in giving is a side effect, not your motivation for doing it. HUGS When I was Catholic, I told my priest it wasn’t a burden for me to eat fish on Friday, because I love fish. He said misery wasn’t required.

  • Unishta says:

    I’ve always been giving albeit without knowing that I was giving because I always give the only thing that is really mine – my time and effort. While money can be a better gift, I personally believe that nothing can really replace one’s own time.

  • Hi Damyanti
    It is again indeed a great joy to land here today. In fact, I am here via Indiblogger wherein this post has been curated and marked on the Home Page as the top post. Congrats.
    Coming to the subject, it is indeed a good thing that my memory goes back to my young age where my mother taught us to give to the needy, especially to the family of believers and the God’s servants.
    That practice or lesson put a deep impact on all her children. And I still follow it and is enjoying the joy of giving, Great things to follow, maybe a less known fact among the new generation.
    Thanks for putting this information in this manner. I like it. Keep writing. Yes, we can’t take anything of ours when we leave this earth! so let us give or help the needy and the deserved ones as much as we can. in whatever sources we have.
    Great and inspiring thoughts. I too posted somewhat similar thought on my blogs under the title “Ler’s Share Our Blessings”
    THanks, again
    Keep writing
    ~ Phil

  • Suzy says:

    Very true, time and attention are difficult particularly when we are so caught up in our lives. But time and attention can even be given at work and at home. Being there for someone in their time of need is also giving your time and attention. Nice post.

  • Time and attention are the most difficult things to give. But these are also the most beautiful and useful (usually the least recognized by the receiver) gifts.

  • Modern Gypsy says:

    I think giving our undivided attention is one of the most important – and rare – gifts we can give. Especially in these times, when picking up the phone in the middle of conversations is the norm. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of practice. But it enriches any conversation, especially the heart-to-hearts or when people come to us for comfort or advice.

  • So refreshing to read a blog like this. Yes, it’s much more satisfying to give things like clothing, furniture to people in need than to advertise and sell. It leaves a very satisfying feeling afterward. Doesn’t matter if its appreciated or not and sometimes people in need can be selfish and unappreciative too. Budgeting money to give to a worthy cause is equally satisfying. But I’ve found out most people need your time more than your money or things. We need to be equally conscious about that. 🙂

  • msw blog says:

    What a great post. I learned the best way to give my time is to schedule it in months in advanced and to do it kn the same day. For a example every third Wednesday a friend and I meet for the farmers market.

  • Sha'Tara says:

    You mention time and that is the one thing we can truly give and it is the most difficult one to do. I don’t have much money and I don’t travel but time is something I can choose how to spend so mostly it’s time that I give.

  • Great post,; just what is giving? Ive met quite a few people who give conditionally-they want to control the behaviour of the person their giving too. Then theres shedding what youno longer need which i dont consider giving.. Its giving of yourself, as you said time ,attention and love that counts-the spirit of giving too.

  • JT Twissel says:

    I have to be careful because when I volunteer – especially for an organization that helps children – I tend to get over involved and take little time for myself. It’s also very easy to get frustrated with the red tape and often inept management of non-profits. I think it’s important to draw your limits at the beginning. Be realistic about how much time you devote and don’t be talked into constantly taking on extras. Otherwise it’s very easy to burn out. At least that’s been my experience.

  • jlcanfield says:

    Five years ago I left my husband. A person I thought was a friend insisted I take as many things as I could from our former home. I was too tired from battling him to disagree with her. In the last four years, I have made some life altering choices, some good, others, well have been lessons learned. The best lesson has been in keeping and leaving, needs and wants. I was never a person who valued items for thier status in society. To me, a piece of clothing, a car, a house, did not determine your worth or value. In the last few years, I have come see I should of held my ground and taken only what I needed but I have been blessed to be able to give away items that were been packed up in a storge unit. I go through my closet twice a year and give away clothes that I no longer wear and some that I have never worn. I have cleaned out my storage closet twice and given away things that others have needed and I do so knowing that these pieces will now be put to a good use by someone who can do more with them.
    We will never be able to take with us all that we accumulate in life when we pass.We can however pass our things to someone who has a pressing need for them. I am little money, no job, and my book royalties can only buy me a small meal. I could sell my things and be justified that I need the money to pay a bill but that is not who I am. As a Christian I am told to wear this label I must be and do as Christ did. No where in the Bible does it say he sold his healing, his love, his time, or the fish he caught. He only gave to those in need. As I plod through the daily grind of living, I too try to give to those who have a greater need then me. Every item that passes from me makes me feel lighter, less burdened,brings me the joy of giving, and frees me up to enjoy small things in life like a persons smile, a welcoming thank you or a hug. I also know I am doing what is asked of me by God and therefore lessening the burden of cleaning up what I leave behind that will fall on someones shoulders when I have passed from life.

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – I too like to give – be it little or just some of my time. I’ve always helped others … but most definitely not enough and I should do more – I hope as the year goes by things will improve and I can add to doing more. I visit a bedridden lady at the Nursing Centre my mother was in … she never gets any chatty visitors, and I keep in touch with a youngster – Lenny – you may know him … a good interaction … with someone from the States, and you – when we get our acts together … must do that. I’d love to be able to do more … but smile around town, and do what I can … cheers to you and your friends etc … Hilary

  • Giving time, money, and/or items can enrich others and us along with it. Sorry it’s a struggle to balance it all. I don’t think anyone has the time they want to give all they want.
    I tithe to my church and volunteer there and through their outreach programs, helping the community. Also used to volunteer to help adults learn to read.

  • Very thoughtful post, and you’ve made me wonder why I don’t give more away. Part, I think, is because I grew up with very little, worked way too hard for everything I have, and continue to be nagged by the constant worry that it’ll all go away. It makes it difficult to let go. But I am trying…