Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

In Giving I Connect With Others

--by Isabel Allende (Aug 04, 2008)

I have lived with passion and in a hurry, trying to accomplish too many things. I never had time to think about my beliefs until my 28-year-old daughter Paula fell ill. She was in a coma for a year and I took care of her at home, until she died in my arms in December of 1992.

Paralyzed and silent in her bed, my daughter Paula taught me a lesson that is now my mantra: You only have what you give. It's by spending yourself that you become rich.

Paula led a life of service. She worked as a volunteer helping women and children, eight hours a day, six days a week. She never had any money, but she needed very little. When she died she had nothing and she needed nothing. During her illness I had to let go of everything: her laughter, her voice, her grace, her beauty, her company and finally her spirit. When she died I thought I had lost everything. But then I realized I still had the love I had given her. I don't even know if she was able to receive that love. She could not respond in any way, her eyes were somber pools that reflected no light. But I was full of love and that love keeps growing and multiplying and giving fruit.

The pain of losing my child was a cleansing experience. I had to throw overboard all excess baggage and keep only what is essential. Because of Paula, I don't cling to anything anymore. Now I like to give much more than to receive. I am happier when I love than when I am loved. I adore my husband, my son, my grandchildren, my mother, my dog, and frankly I don't know if they even like me. But who cares? Loving them is my joy.

Give, give, give -- what is the point of having experience, knowledge or talent if I don't give it away? Of having stories if I don't tell them to others? Of having wealth if I don't share it? I don't intend to be cremated with any of it! It is in giving that I connect with others, with the world and with the divine.

It is in giving that I feel the spirit of my daughter inside me, like a soft presence.

- Isabel Allende on "This I Believe"

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Previous Reflections:

On Aug 5, 2008 sue wrote:
how wonderful to be able to be so generous after losing your daughter like that. the world would be a better place if more people thought like this.....about giving...not getting. Brilliant.

On Aug 5, 2008 stephen wrote:
it is a beautiful inspiration. thanks for sharing

On Aug 5, 2008 sujata wrote:
So true, so touching and so enlightening. You are absolutely right. Giving does connect us to people. Thanks for sharing.

On Aug 5, 2008 brvhrt wrote:
Awesome! A great thought and an opportunity to reflect on it. One has to be walking in the Spirit of God, like Isabel to show such compassion. Thank you!
Job 1:21
"And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I
return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed
be the name of the LORD."

Matt Chapter 10 Verse 8 Freely you have received, freely give

On Aug 5, 2008 Sonia wrote:
that's's only by giving that we receive...none of these material things matter...we are here for each other...I really enjoy the Nipun Mehta meditations and I always shre them with my!!

On Aug 5, 2008 R. Bailey wrote:
What a stunning example.

On Aug 6, 2008 ganoba wrote:
Giving and receiving are complimentary acts. By separating them we create an unnecessary hierarchy. Then giving becomes superior than taking. The giver is a noble person while the one who takes is somehow to be pitied.
there is also the question of ownership. we can only give what we truly own. Do we really own anything? All that we have is gift given to us by God in good faith, to be used for the larger good.It is more appropriate then to share what we have with all those who need it. To be a trusty rather than the owner.

On Aug 8, 2008 winnie wrote:
what a touching message!God bless you abundantly. you left a challenge to me.

On Dec 25, 2011 Howard wrote:

 whatever is the essence of me is at its lightest and brightest when I give of myself completely (unconditionally) and fearlessly.  My finest moments in my life are when what I give encourages courage to blossom in others.  There are times we each of us needs a "shot in the arm" to pull ourselves up from some stuck place.

On Dec 25, 2011 ashokgupta wrote:

nice story, even i believe in giving,ihave experienced when u give u feel happy by inside

On Dec 25, 2011 shiv kumar manikar wrote:

very  true. in giving only v receive

On Dec 5, 2012 jennifer wrote:
 What love! and what devotion. Thank you for your sharing this  gift of compassion and true love. 

On Dec 6, 2012 Dawn Ann Farnin, MSHCE wrote:
Thank you, Isabel.  Your article is one of the most insightful and passionate stories of the power of gift-giving through serving others that I have encountered.  Through my own family losses, I was able to find myself and exit the heavy grief with an awakened sense of what saying 'I love you' means.  And you are so right; when I say 'I love you" to family and friends; it emotionally connects me to the world and others that soothes my soul.  You honor your daughter by honoring others who need you adoration!  Bravo, Isabel.                               Dawn Ann Farnin, MSHCE

On Dec 6, 2012 Rebecca wrote:
 Beautiful message Isabel! Blessings to you for your journey and all you give. XO

On Jan 6, 2013 Tamilyn wrote:
 thank you for what you just  "gave"  me xo feels like truth inside xo

On Nov 26, 2013 David wrote:

 Love will continue on surprising us, the really big human wealth. In deed, "Love is all you need".

On Nov 26, 2013 Peggy Casey wrote:

I too learned the greatest lessons of life from my son who was born with cerebral anoxia and lived as a 6 week old baby for 32 years, than his spirit went to heaven. I learned to be thankful for the little things like walking, talking, swatting away the fly that landed on my nose, eating, the privilege of working--things he was unable to do --but thru it all never complained, had a smile and twinkle in his eye when you talked to him or he heard the sound of music. He taught me patience--he was totally dependent on me and others to meet all of his needs. And most of all he taught me love-unconditional love--that no matter what I looked like or felt like he would smile at the sound of my voice and just wanted to be talked to or rocked--so little but yet so much. We all have so very much to be grateful for, and we all want to be loved. It costs nothing to have a grateful attitude, and nothing to tell someone you love them or care about them---give your thanks to God and pass on His love that He has showered each one of us with. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. 

On Nov 26, 2013 Carol wrote:

 I have re-read your comment many times and each time I have hope it will be permanently etched into my memory. A great message, well said. Thank you.

On Nov 26, 2013 carolyn hirsch wrote:

I was asked yesterday to take on a serious volunteer responsibility.  I was on the fence.  Reading this reminds me that my gifts are not mine to hold but mine to share.  I will answer the call.  I will say yes. 

On Nov 26, 2013 Ute Arnold wrote:

When I was born my country was in the middle of the 2nd world war struggles, and eventually lay in ruins, as was my parents' marriage.
As the fourth child no welcome was prepared for me, no ams wrapping me in warmth. But I was embraced by the Ur-Mutter, nature. Plants and animals became my dear companions while I learned that I could find the cradling arms in the healing forces of nature. They became my guides and teachers and provided a most fascinating class room. When I went to the beach  the sand castles I built were swept up by the sea the next day, and I learned that even beauty and creations transform and seem to disappear, like my mother had.
But every day was a new gift, and if I found a way of not becoming too attached to the physical form, but could carry the creative act of making something with the intention of beauty in my heart, it would warm me deeply, maybe more so than my confused parents would have ever been able to do.
I built my spirit home in the roots of the trees again and again...and they were always there for me, and still are.

On Nov 26, 2013 Avril wrote:

 This has touched me greatly. It's the reverse of my life. I lost my dear mother when I was 13. It took me till I was 38 to truly grieve this loss. It hit me like a tidal wave and in doing so I rode that wave and now I work with women who experience domestic and family violence. Thank you for the learning.

On Nov 26, 2013 vicala wrote:

Being present in the final weeks of my Mom's life was such a gift.  So much was not loss.  But when she died, my whole way of being felt the loss.  One of the few things that was a constant since before I was born was now gone.  It was as tho someone had taken all the parts of my life and thrown them up in the air......and I had no idea how they were going to fall down.....what pattern they would take.  Not really scarey.........just different.  I do miss her, tho I feel her many days, especially in on walks and in autumn.   

On Nov 26, 2013 Ute Arnold wrote:

 You are and have been very brave. What a gift to the world and the population you work with. I am a body-psychotherapist and often work with sexual abuse victims and also at times with their perpetrators, so I have a sense of how you have  turned your story around and gifted your world.

On Nov 26, 2013 Ute Arnold wrote:

 Your comment reads like a poem. Thank you.

On Nov 27, 2013 Avril wrote:

 Thank you Ute for your kind words. I never really think about what I give, I just do it. It isn't till someone like yourself validates me that I realise the importance of what I do. Thank you!

On Nov 27, 2013 Ute Arnold wrote:

 Yes, Avril, you are a Natural  at giving and receiving. AND what I find is that at times a 'clear ' self appreciation can be a shortcut to self healing, and it seems to me that you deserve it.

On Nov 24, 2014 Elsie wrote:

if you have skills, talents, or gifts, give them away. That's what gifts are for, after all. 

On Mar 4, 2015 kindacts6 wrote:

Thank you Isabel for your tender story of the power of love. I too gave my love and presence to my husband as he was dying. With that I have no regrets. Now, even though I am reaching out to others, I am trying to discover the new me. I feel my husband's love urging me on to live with joy in my heart. 

On Mar 5, 2015 Carolanne wrote:

 What are we here for, really? It certainly isn't to accumulate vast quantities of 'stuff." And while iPads, computers and numerous other toys make our lives fun and enjoyable, they are more of a distraction rather than the true essence of our purpose. Isabel Allende, in her wisdom, has hit it right on the nail: we are here to serve one another, to give of ourselves and our gifts. Everything else is superflous. 

On Dec 14, 2015 Arul wrote:
 Really touching

On Apr 26, 2016 Smithf436 wrote:


On Jul 11, 2016 Ck wrote:

 I love this, thank you for sharing your heart and your journey xo

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