Le don de soi: The gift of oneself. The phrase stayed with me, both inspiring and irritating: a sliver in my conscience.
This week's mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school threw le don de soi into stark relief for me. According to the dictionary, the opposite of gift or giving, is steal or taking. Killing sprees, terrorism, Jihad, road rage - so many traumatic examples of people turning themselves into weapons, taking the lives of others. Corporate, National and individual greed - constant examples of turning one's life into an instrument used for stealing from others. The opposite of le don de soi surrounds us daily.
Our natural reaction to the violence or greed of others is self-defense. Apparently, whenever there is an incident of mass violence, gun sales go up. Greed, as much as violence, incites our urge for self-preservation. Even a child will look to make sure no one else is getting a bigger piece of pie than his. Consider the current NHL strike - these guys are hurting for money? Seriously?
The problem with self-preservation is that it doesn't work. It just leads to an increasing spiral of violence and greed. We all know that, but the instinct is so deeply ingrained in our DNA it's hard to resist. So how can we respond effectively to hate and greed? By making ourselves, against our very nature if necessary, into the opposite. Into a gift, instead of a weapon. Le don de soi, the gift of ourselves.
At Sandy Hook, a young teacher threw herself in front of bullets to defend her students; the female principle and school psychologist tried to stop the shooter with their weaponless bodies. So it seems le don de soi is built into our DNA as well. Maybe we only need to find a way to release it.
How do we make a gift of ourself? I've done volunteer work, and made donations to charity, and yes, these were gifts of time and money: gifts of my spare time, my extra money. Somehow, they don't seem to fit the concept of a gift of oneself. Is it possible to not merely give, but turn ourself into a gift? Make our life a gift?
The obvious examples come to mind: Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Terry Fox, Romeo Dallaire. Let me admit right here: I am not looking to be a saint or a martyr. I don't have what it takes - the charisma, the humility, the courage, the sheer physical stamina. I have had 5 surgeries in the past year and a half, with three more on the horizon, from minor stuff like oral surgery and cataract surgery to major reconstructiion of the gut. This gift of myself that I'm
contemplating is seriously flawed goods. Not the stuff of heros, let me assure you.
Well, we give what we can. The point is, all we have, really, is ourselves. Nothing else is within our control. So will we make ourselves into a weapon? An instrument of self-interest? Or a gift?
Le don de soi. The choice is ours.
What do you think? Are you, or have you in the past been inspired to make a gift of yourself? If so, tell me about it. Write a guest post about it here, or blog about it and send me the link to your blog.