How Giving Freely Creates More Impact Than You Know


In a few days time, many people will be giving and receiving their Christmas gifts. It’s a lovely feeling to give, but there’s no doubt that many folk are also looking forward to what they’ll get too. It’s totally natural to get excited about what you’ll get, but I think it’s so important to explore the generosity that comes from giving without expecting anything back. Below, I share my experience of it through a very personal story.

For those that don’t know me, my father passed away when I was 10 months old. I was raised by two inspirational women in my life, my single mother and older sister (she was 6 when he passed), but more on them another time.

Recently I have been thinking about another influence on my life as I grew up, who unquestionably shaped the man I am today.

The growth of a friendship

My dad’s best friend was a man called Noel. He and my dad worked together before I was born and struck up such a deep friendship in the relatively short time they knew each other. From the way Noel talks about my dad, there is no question they’d be even closer if he was still here. Old souls with wise minds, sharing a laugh at some of the experiences they’d had over the decades of friendship together.

Noel, and his beloved late wife, Pat, were originally from Ireland, but had long been settled in Kentish Town, North London and had two children who were a few years older than my sister and me. They first got to know my mum in the early seventies when she arrived in England as my dad’s new bride. In those days, samosas and onion bhajis were like some sort of alien gunk to be wary of, and my mum often amusingly tells me how cautious Pat was at first. But as the friendship grew, she relented, then embraced, and soon became a big fan of my mum’s top notch cooking.

Tumultuous change

I was too young to remember of course, but my dad’s passing was sudden and shocking. My mum was 27, with a young child and infant, and needing time to grieve. There were plenty of people around to support at first, but naturally as weeks passed, people needed to get back to their lives.

Noel & Pat never went away. My earliest and longstanding memories are filled with them.

Family Experiences

Despite having their own busy lives and family, they always had us in their hearts and minds. Every Birthday, every Christmas – there was always a present for us. Those occasions were never, ever missed. Every year, there were family days out to the seaside in the summer, to zoos, or theme parks.  There were the occasional boys day out to see car racing at Brands Hatch or British Harrier planes at an Air show. There are so many moments we cherish that we simply would not have had if not for Noel & Pat.

Growing up, my sister was very unwell– she was in an out of emergency care with asthma attacks all the time. Noel & Pat would always rush over, either to drive us to the hospital, or just take care of me. They were my mum’s back up. Always there, never flinching in their support. As a kid, I just loved having them around, but as an adult and parent, I realise now the energy and commitment each of those endeavours took. It was completely selfless.

I believe that Noel & Pat, either explicitly or implicitly, vowed to ensure we had rich and wonderful lives, with love and support and fun experiences. There was nothing in it for them, there was no expectation of reciprocation, and there was no hidden agenda – just pure, unconditional kindness. To this day, I have not met anybody else like Pat & Noel, and I feel lucky that we have had them in our lives.

The impact on me

As an errant teenager and twentysomething, I admittedly lost sight of important things and important people in pursuit of living a fun life. As I entered my thirties, I became a dad and have been busy building my career and growing my family. Now, at 37, I feel steady and more knowing about life. I recognise that one of my deep-set values is to try to give without expecting to receive something. This is the unquestionable value given to me by Noel & Pat.

I’m not perfect, I still love to tear open presents at Christmas and on my birthday, but this value is bigger than that.

  • It is about a time when you acknowledge the work of one of your team and incrementally build their confidence so they will be as big as you know they can be.
  • It’s when you subtly give a voice to the quietest person in the room when your voice is strong and can support them.
  • It’s perhaps a moment when you are there for your best friend when they need you most, regardless of what’s going on in your life.
  • It’s about giving someone else credit, even if you can take it for yourself.
  • It’s like the time when you give up your seat on the bus, or stop and have a talk with an elderly person, just because.

Sure, those things will make you feel good about yourself, but that’s an outcome, not the reason.  Being kind, being resourceful for others, being strong, standing up are all virtues we need more of in society. For me personally, they are manifested by what I learnt from Pat & Noel.

The gift of giving

As we approach Christmas Day, offer some thought to what you can give to someone else without expecting anything back from them.  How can you use your superpowers to help others?

Chances are that your endeavours will be repaid by that person in another way when you least expect it, but even if they’re not, that’s totally cool, someone else will surprise you.

Leave a comment below and tell us your own stories about what you’ve read above.


Image Credit - Hasib/Flickr