You Always Have Enough to Give

Posted by Chris Lowman on Apr 16, 2012

[Originally Posted by Chris Lowman]

Few years back, some volunteers had started an experiment where we would encourage children to save one rupee a day and use it for small acts of kindness. Children painted plastic bottles and used it as piggy banks and called it Akshay Patra ( inexhaustible vessel). Heres a story of how Chris Lowman took that idea to Kenya ...

That is a water bottle that has been painted and has a small slit cut in the top so you can deposit money. My friend, Jyotsana, invented this experiment and calls it Akshaya Patra, meaning inexhaustible vessel.

Idea is deceptively simple. You collect money over a period of time not for any specific cause or for any specific purpose, just as a loving gift and knowing that one day when it is filled, it will be given randomly to somebody else. The bottle gets filled with love and money.

Imagine if somebody told you they had spent the past 6 months filling that bottle with money just because and felt moved to give it to you. How would that affect you? What would it inspire? Thats the power of this experiment.

Lets remember that my kids are all poorest of the poor and live in a slum—typically, they are in the position of having to ask for money to get by. The idea of introducing this experiment to them, on the one hand, doesnt make any sense.

But it really does, especially when you define true poverty, as I did, as feeling like you have nothing left to give. I reminded the kids that you can always give somebody the gift of your presence, e.g., talking to somebody who looks like they need a friend. I shared about the two times Ive nearly been robbed (literally) here in Nairobi, saying that those individuals are truly poor, feeling like they need to steal from a stranger. They deserve more love than retribution.

I introduced a phrase for the soul and had the children repeat it out loud a few times, I always have enough to give. 

These words seemed to really land.

I asked one child to be the leader of the experiment, to remind his classmates about contributing to the bottle each week. Even if its 1 Kenyan Shilling, doesnt matter. You give the gift as a personal sacrifice bearing in mind all the sacrifices made on your behalf and because the act brings joy knowing the joy that will be created later on. Even if it takes an entire term at school, doesnt matter. Its about the process.

To wrap, I put some coins in the bottle and handed it over to Timothy (above). Then, just about everybody without asking, enthusiastically put money in the bottle as well. It was amazing.

And notice the smiles! :)

In all honesty, I dont know if they will continue with this, and it doesnt matter—thats not the judge of the success of the program. The point is that we invoked the spirit of the value of service to humanity, we planted those seeds in the kids, and now we let them germinate in whoever, however they want.

This experiment was inspired by Vinoba Bhave, one of Mahatma Gandhis senior Satyagrahas and leader of the Land Gift Movement(worth reading up on, if youre not familiar).

Posted by Chris Lowman on Apr 16, 2012 | permalink

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