Sometimes people who are naturally giving by nature, or people who are opening themselves up to being giving, fall into situations where they give to much. What do I mean by giving to much? They give to the extent that they become tired, drained and worn out, to the extent that their own wellbeing suffers and their ability to continue to give is reduced. Giving starts to feel like a chore or a burden, maybe an obligation or even resented, instead of the joy that it can ideally be.
I have seen this, and experienced this myself many times in different situations. One such situation is serving in non-profit organizations – I’m going to save discussing that one for another blog post though, as there are some other issues to do with that dynamic that I would like to bring out. Another more recent situation has been in hosting couchsurfers.
If you haven’t heard of couchsurfing I suggest you check it out – there is a website at www.couchsurfing.org Basically it is a network for travellers where people can meet locals and request to stay with them short term during their travels. There is no cost, and requiring payment is explicitly prohibited. I think the underlying spirit of couchsurfing fits really well with the principles of Give Freely Receive Freely.
I have been hosting couchsurfers for the last year or so. At some times during the year I get TONS of requests, and there have been times when I have taken the attitude that if I have space to fit someone in I would take them. That has been fun at times, but then there have also been times when I have taken people in, and I have had too many people in a row, and some of them haven’t been entirely considerate as guests and it has taken up too much of my time and started to get in the way of my day to day activities and things that I need to get done. These times have left me feeling a bit jaded with couchsurfing, and it has even been a bit stressful at times. So I stopped hosting people.
End of the story?
The story could end there. That could be the end of my couchsurfing story. “I tried hosting people for awhile, then I had some bad experiences and it became a bit stressful so I stopped”. Too often that can be what happens when we give too much. We get drained and have bad experiences, so we get put off and think maybe its not such a good idea after all and stop doing it. Fortunately with couchsurfing I didn’t take this approach. Instead of stopping completely, I just stopped hosting for awhile. I took a break so I could have time to myself and then came back to it refreshed and better able to manage my hosting so that it doesn’t become overwhelming and wear me down too much. I now say ‘no’ to far more requests than I previously did and am much more careful to not host people at times when it may cause problems with my other activities, and also to just allow myself more down time when I need it.
I’m glad that I did this and didn’t just give up on couchsurfing, because I have met some really cool people since then through doing this. And from time to time in the future I will continue to take breaks from hosting when I need it so that I can come back to it fresh each time and continue to enjoy the experience.
A bit like Italian parsley?
This reminds me a bit of an Italian parsley plant we had in my mothers garden. Often parsley plants are quite small, and after picking from them a few times, there isn’t much of the plant left, but this plant was amazing. It was allowed to grow until it was quite large and then when we picked from it, a few days later it seemed that it had regrown to the same size again. We picked parsley from that plant again and again for several years. In fact if we didn’t pick from the plant the leaves would start to get too long and the quality would deteriorate, so picking from the plant actually made it healthier. There were times when we picked maybe a bit too much from the plant and then it would be left a bit bare and take awhile to regrow, but if we took care of it and gave it the time it needed without taking mare from it, regrow it did back to its former health and lushness.
I think each of us is a bit like the Italian parsley plant. Giving makes us healthier and more lush, but we sometimes need to make sure that we manage the level of our giving so that it doesn’t make us weak. If we do find that we have been giving too much, sometimes we need to take a break and take care of ourselves to let ourselves recuperate so that we can get back to giving joyfully. When we do this we help not only ourselves, but also those we give to, as we are better able to give when we are healthy, strong and happy ourselves.