On waking this morning the thought of giving, (it’s that time of the year after all) flooded me with memories on how I was raised.  My parents always had an additional table setting should someone less fortunate or alone, knock on our door on Christmas Eve; a fairly common tradition among many families.  Giving without expecting anything in return was the message. 

Sadly, this beautiful message became blurred over the years. Society paints a vastly different picture, saying with cynicism, ‘nothing in life is free’.

There are those, though, who go so far as to suggest an ‘energy exchange’ (for any sort of deed provided).  I’m open minded enough to embrace all views, without judgement.  I seek, in both my business and personal capacity, to put some of these theories to the test.

 AfrikaBurn applies this concept to their week-long festival, where fellow Burners come up to you and offer food or drinks without expecting anything in return.  It takes a good 2-3 days to adjust to this concept which is so foreign in everyday sub-urban society where it’s expected that you return an invitation if you’ve been invited.  It’s the norm right? 

 The year before last I attended Christmas with family and specifically asked what the gift arrangements where beforehand – just for kids or adults as well?  Just for kids was the reply I got (quite a relief as I was seriously tight on budget!)  As it turned out all my family members had brought me a gift leaving me quietly embarrassed as I had brought them nothing (short of my contribution to the meal). 

Guilt and shame set in and all I wanted to do is run away!  I get it – Christmas is a time of giving but it’s that expectation that rubs me up the wrong way.  You see, I give of myself often – I don’t need to wait for Christmas to make it a ‘once a year thing’ – It’s much the same as Mother’s Day – Mothers should be appreciated all year round – not only on a specific commercially created day.

 A few months ago, we received an enquiry from a retirement village in Gauteng requesting training for 30 of their staff members.  As per normal, we quoted them.  In following up, they admitted they didn’t have that budget for our service, and wouldn’t be going ahead with this much needed training.  They got quotes from other service providers with the hope of getting a better deal, but to no avail. 

As we work with many clients and are abundantly rewarded for the work we do, I decided to offer them this training at no charge – a gift from us to them and for the better good of the community who work hard to look after the elderly in their village.  The only cost to them was a return ticket to Johannesburg.  Our offer was submitted to management, and three months later, we’re still waiting with no sign at all of them taking us up on this very generous gift. 

 About 3 years back, the press announced that a technical college offering a travel course had run out of funds and final year students would not be able to complete the course.  As we offer training in hospitality, we sent them a letter offering our services at no charge – the only cost to them was the printing of the manuals.  We received no acknowledgment to our offer and the students failed that year.

 This saddens me a lot; it leaves me puzzled with the values in which we live in a as a community.  I’m offering my valuable time with very little exchange, to help others achieve what they need to achieve, to do some good in the community and deliver a message of hope. 

 My purpose in life is clear – I’m here to serve.  If it weren’t for my faithful team who insist on me charging for the work that I so love doing, I’d be quite happy doing it for free.  Everyone needs training -  its an investment in your future, yet some cannot look past the affordability factor.

 Why is ‘giving’ subjected to doubt, fear, expectation, cynicism? 

 My work is far from done; I will continue to render the service that I so willingly and obligingly do with love, passion and joy – and if a price tag is what society wants, then I’ll gladly accept the exchange, but purely from an energy perspective – not because I need it.

May your festive season be one of unconditional giving.

 Lionel  Bourgeois

Director VETTA Communication

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