Mind Matters: Give and take

To begin the process of remodeling our kitchen, the old was gutted and appliances were going to be thrown away. Donating to Goodwill or other non-profits was not possible — our old kitchen was “too old” despite all being in working condition. Freecycle to the Rescue.

Freecycle is an online listing service sort of like Craig’s List but, as the name implies, “free.” The mission of Freecyle, as quoted in Adam Grant’s book, “Give and Take,” is to “build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources, and eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.”

I placed a notice on Freecycle for the giveaway of refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, and microwave, all fourteen years old. Responses were immediate. It turned out that the woman who was thrilled to take it all also wanted to pay it forward. Our church was gathering items for pregnant women who had been victims of human trafficking and were living in a safe house. This woman was delighted to start a collection of baby items from her friends.

Grant, a professor at Penn’s Wharton School, analyzes how success may be based more on being a “giver” than a “taker.” In the workplace, people may be givers, takers or matchers. Quid pro quo, this for that, is the modus operandi of matchers, while takers try to get as much as they can without reciprocating. Givers, on the other hand, contribute to others without expectation of getting anything in return.

It would seem that Grant’s research finds that St. Francis of Assisi was right after all! It is in giving that we receive. While some givers in the professional sphere may become doormats and get burnt out, many, if not most, givers in the workplace achieve great success. It turns out the networking, collaboration, community, and connection, among other relational skills of the givers, trump the takers of the world.

Why is that? Grant notes: “When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. … when givers … win, people are rooting for them … rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.”

One of the stories of givers that Grant relates is of Abraham Lincoln who “put the interests of others before his own” even in politics. Rather than seeing a crooked and popular politician win, Lincoln withdrew from the race and urged his supporters to vote for the less popular, but more honest man (Trumbull), who shared his views and remained in the race. Withdrawing from race or losing another did not stop Lincoln from running for Senate again and he went on to become one of the most beloved presidents. Experts agree that Lincoln helped others even when it was least convenient. He is considered “as one of the least self-centered, egotistical, or boastful presidents” all the while being one of the most popular. One of his own military generals remarked that Lincoln possessed the elements of both goodness and greatness.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin notes how Lincoln surrounded himself in the cabinet with his rivals. The good of the country was his priority.

Grant attests that “if politics can be fertile ground for givers,” any workplace, or profession can also be!

However, givers are not the sprinters. It takes time to develop relationships and networks, goodwill, and trust. The success of the giver is in the long distance. Lincoln endured losses with a generosity of spirit and succeeded to become one of our greatest presidents.

Whether we ourselves are givers or takers, we—people across the globe—endorse giver values of helpfulness, responsibility, social justice, and compassion. We hopefully live these values in our own homes. Now all we need to do is extend those same notions into the workplace and the world at every level.

You don’t have to be Abraham Lincoln to start giving on Freecycle (freecycle.org), or to join ServiceSpace (servicespace.org). Even asking for help is a way to start the giving connections going. Asking for what we need gives others the choice to be givers and for us to return the favor or pay it forward.

** The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section, or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to editor@chaddsfordlive.com


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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.



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