When Giving is All We Have by Alberto Rios

                                              One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

When Giving is All We Have

I first heard this poem spoken in Ireland at a gathering of lovers of poetry I attended and it has stayed with me since. I’ve long been intrigued by the inexorable twinning of giving and receiving, how one cannot exist without the other.

Rios speaks of the many elements of giving. We give because we received, we did not, we were changed, we were not, we are better for it or wounded by it. Giving has many faces with an old story we return to over and again.

When we each give what we have, blue for you, yellow for me, together we are simple green. Simple, yes. We give what we do not have, what we do have to give. Surely you know those times you have given when you thought you had nothing to offer. And together, we made / Something greater from the difference.

This is how it is every day. We give, we receive, hand to hand – mine to yours, yours to mine, really two sides of the same coin. And each time, something new is created. Try it and see if that isn’t true – simple green, like the colour of spring that surrounds us now. And isn’t it delectable.

14 thoughts on “When Giving is All We Have by Alberto Rios

  1. Thank you for introducing me to a steady stream of inspiration and solace. I’m learning to embrace poetry through your offerings here. Such a beautiful place!


  2. Thanks for posting this poem, Jan, and how you first heard it. A flashback to that wonderful large circle and Susan reciting this poem brings smiles of delight. And you’re right: it’s the perfect poem for the new green all around us! Love – Mary Lou


  3. Thanks Jan – really enjoying the poems you are sharing – one insight about giving that I had years ago is that giving is receiving – the both are like inhaling and exhaling – life circulating – so rich and deep, these two “simple” words, actions


  4. I find peaceful stillness insight and inspiration from your poetry posts. What a gift to receive and I pass them on to dear ones. I’m grateful, Jan, thank you.


  5. Jan,
    What a perfect way to begin this day. Your heart poems are such a generous gift – such a wonderful way that you give. I love “…you gave me blue and I gave you yellow. Together we are simple green…. – together, we made Something greater from the difference.” I’ll think of this poem and of you today – as the colour of spring is everywhere. Thank you.
    Lisa xo


  6. Thank you Jan for posting this poem. It touches my soul and I’m going to share it because I believe a blessing given is a blessing received!


  7. Dear Jan, I hope you are well & managing to cope with the confinement we are experiencing!

    Thank you so much for this beautiful poem!! It really made me think, deeply…

    I heard on the radio early this week that a group of people from Norther Ontario is launching an on line literary magazine.

    They are welcoming work (including poetry) from anyone for on line distribution. I thought of you immediately & wondered if you would be intereste?

    The contact person is Jody & I believe their email address is something like cloudlikelibrary.ca

    Warmly, f


  8. Dear Francine, this really is a poem to make one think deeply I agree. Thank you for the information about the online magazine; I’ll certainly look into it – thanks for thinking of me. xoxoxo


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