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  • Emily Witter

Joy@Work #2 - Reciprocity - Giving and getting



Chapter 2

Reciprocity

Giving and getting

Reciprocity – it can be a lovely word but may also have a sting in the tail.

The sting will depend on your expectation. If you do something expecting a certain response, you may well be setting yourself up for a disappointment.

So, what to do? Just for today, have in your mind that whatever you do, you do because you want to, expect nothing in return. For example, if you let someone out into the traffic, do not expect a wave of appreciation. If you hold the door open for someone, don't expect a thank you! Do it because you want to. Do it as an aspect of unconditional love. Do it as an altruistic act. Do it as a random act of kindness. Do it ‘just because!’

In chapter 1, you explored that you are a human BE-ing, rather than a human DO-ing, you be wondering how to explore your BE-ingness further? Well, there is one key piece of knowledge which can make this much easier, and that, is knowing your purpose on this planet. Do you know yours? I find that many people do not and worse, feel that they are not in some way ‘worthy’ of having a purpose.

Time for a short story and one that provided me with a lasting impression, so much so that some fifty years later I still feel it is worth sharing.

I was providing some training in a large, multi-national corporate headquarters and needed to visit the ladies room. That long ago wash rooms were very basic and so I was really surprised when I walked in and saw fresh flowers and was greeted by a pleasant aroma! I looked about to see if there was an attendant, but no. Later I was introduced to the lady who was in charge and asked her about her work, she said, ‘You all work very hard, and I wanted to create a special place where you could relax and feel cared for, even if for just a few moments.’ She went on to tell me that she managed to pick some flowers or leaves and made up a pot-pouri to help give an ‘at home’ environment, when I offered her a tip to buy some of her supplies, she declined requesting that any money be given to buy a book for a child. Later I learned that eventually she was given a budget by management for her supplies. Here she was, a job that could not easily be classed as glamorous and yet she made it so she could act out her passion of caring for people – she had a purpose and she acted on it. Not only did she make those people feel better, but also, as I have shared this story so many times, she had indirectly inspired others around the world to have a purpose and to act on it – every day.


When you have identified your purpose, it creates a context for everything else you do and your beingness for who you are. Every waking moment is shaped by it. The stuff you must do is still there, however you have a higher sense of responsibility and giving and satisfaction and joy, whether it be washing the dishes or attending a meeting.

Having a life purpose sounds very big and serious and in one sense it is, however, if you are not sure what yours is, play with ‘trying one on’.

It doesn’t need to sound pompous and world shattering! Being the best Dad possible; remaining an ocean of calm; appreciating nature; leaving the world better than you found it, or sharing a smile, are all most worthy purposes. My life purpose is to enhance joy and so, as much as I can, all activities have that as the backdrop. One thing I decided to do years ago was to put a smiley face in my signature, and this I do (yes, even on my cheques to the tax man!) The number of busy delivery or sales people who have gone from being disengaged to suddenly looking up and smiling at me and making a positive comment is amazing. And it doesn’t stop there - that person may then be nicer to the next customer, who may in turn be nicer to a fellow worker who may be…


A simple act can have a very profound affect.

Back to the reciprocity and what you expect in return for your good act; as we discussed earlier, if there is a lack of response it might help to ‘de-personalise it’ and by that, I mean, if someone does not respond, do not take it personally. You never know, your act may register with them later. You have no idea what is going on in their lives at that moment. However, you know that you have lived up to your life’s purpose and that is all you can be responsible for. Reciprocity – give and get the satisfaction of so doing.

The beautiful bonus of giving without expecting any return is that when or if you do receive a positive response – Wow! How extra happy making! It feels like a windfall of joyousness, now, how good is that?

Contact Vanda by email

#joywork #Resilience