Opinion: Giving to give

Christina Bucciere

Christina Bucciere

Christina Bucciere is a junior journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

Showing gratitude for others’ kindness is supremely important. My mom taught me that. She was my thank-you card and thank-you call drill sergeant, making sure I understood how people should be treated. Now, it’s a reflexive action. When people go out of their way to do something nice for someone else, they deserve to be shown their actions did not go unappreciated.

Recently, I became upset with a friend when I received no thank-you text or call after sending her a Christmas card and then a birthday card later. I tried to think rationally — maybe she’s been so busy she forgot, or maybe she hasn’t checked her mail? But, really, I was frustrated. When someone does something nice, they deserve a thank-you. Right?

But yesterday I reread Jerry Spinelli’s “Stargirl,” one of my favorite books from my childhood, for my children’s literature class. This book was transformative for me as an insecure 12-year-old entering a brand-new middle school. The narrator, Leo Borlock, tells the story of Stargirl, a free-spirited, home-schooled girl who enrolls at his public high school, where conformity is the golden rule. But Stargirl is unhindered, genuine and completely unaware of societal norms, which is a shock to the student body.

I wanted to be Stargirl. Because she didn’t understand society’s rules, she didn’t live in fear of disobeying them. But the aspect of her character I admired most was the way she cared for others. She made it her business to know when people are going through a difficult time, or even a time of celebration, and makes a corresponding card. But Stargirl never signed her name. Leo asks Stargirl why she doesn’t want people to know the cards are from her — it’s important for people to know whom to thank.

“Is it?” she replied.

I remember reading her two-word response and feeling changed. Genuinely unaware is a standard practice, Stargirl never leaves her name because she is unconcerned with the subsequent return of gratification. Her motives are based purely on the act of giving for the sake of being kind. She challenged me to re-evaluate what it means to do for others.

So when I reread those words yesterday, I was forced to re-evaluate my motives once again. I often lose sight of the act of simply giving. Giving has been replaced by the expectation of giving and receiving. We give to others and wait for our reward, the satisfaction of receiving gratification for our kindness and generosity. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Should we not give just to give and expect nothing in return?

It is, of course, still important to thank others when on the receiving end of an act of kindness. But when we give, let’s give without the undercurrent of expectation.

I spend too much time dwelling on the interaction when the single action is what’s important. It feels good to be kind to others, to take time out of your day to do something for someone else, so if we must have a selfish motivation for giving, let it be based not on the rewarding feeling of receiving compliments on our character but on the internal gratification of spreading kindness simply because the world needs more of it.