Paths Are Made By Walking

This is the third post in a summer series I’m calling “What Are You Reading? Wednesdays.” Every Wednesday in August, you’ll find a short review of thought-provoking books, articles and speeches about generosity, money, philanthropy and more. Enjoy!

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“Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking.”–Antonio Machado

Once again, I’ll say it: There are many ways to be generous.

I just read an inspiring speech by Nipun Mehta, delivered to University of Pennsylvania’s graduating class of 2012. An interesting choice for an Ivy League commencement keynote, Mehta is a man who has never in his adult life applied for a job. He hasn’t worked for pay in nearly a decade, and his mission is “to live simply, love purely and give fearlessly.”

In 2005, Mehta and his new wife went on a 1000 km, 3-month walking pilgrimage through villages of India. Their goal was to “be in a space larger than our egos, and allow that compassion to guide us in unscripted acts of service along the way.” Encountering some of the best and worst of human nature — not just in others, but in themselves, they learned some key lessons that he shared with the graduates–one of which is: Those who have less, give more.

In his speech, he said:

Most of us believe that to give, we first need to have something to give.  The trouble with that is, that when we are taking stock of what we have, we almost always make accounting errors.  Oscar Wilde once quipped, “Now-a-days, people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.”  We have forgotten how to value things without a price tag.  Hence, when we get to our most abundant gifts — like attention, insight, compassion — we confuse their worth because they’re, well, priceless.”

Read the full speech here: Paths Are Made By Walking, by Nipun Mehta. It’s a good one. And big thanks to Daily Good for publishing it. (It’s been read now more than 130,000 times!)

Gets me thinking about walks I’ve taken in life. After I graduated college, I walked the Appalachian Trail–not the whole thing, but an ambitious 60 miles of it. It’s true how much you can learn about yourself and others when you’re on a long walk of that kind, over days and weeks. I still remember meeting many people along that trail, many of whom were generous in their own way–whether it was sharing a snack, a map, a trail tip or a story. These were people who were carrying everything they had on their backs at the time, and still–together–we created an unspoken community of giving.

Somehow when you’re stripped of everyday comforts and even your identity to a certain point, it creates the space for real presence, compassion and generosity to creep through.

What walks have you taken that made a difference to you or others? Write me.

In the meantime, be well and walk on.

About Elaine

Elaine Gast Fawcett helps grantmakers, nonprofits and businesses tell their story, market their mission and attract more support.
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