In 1923 the Lebanese-American artist, poet, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931) published his masterpiece, The Prophet, which endures as a timeless classic meditation on living. While Kahlil's thoughts on love capture his brilliance, his book offered more wisdom.
In our annual letter we highlight that the most valuable thing you give Farnam Street, is your time. This moves beyond something physical and into something that is part of you. Gibran captures this well when he writes:
You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
As if speaking in our time — to our fear or boredom, our inability to want something without instant gratification, and our ability to never be satisfied with what we have, Gibran writes
And what is fear of need but need itself.
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?
On whether we should wait to be asked before we give, the answer is clear. We should give first. More than that, however, we need to be deserving. Something Charlie Munger hit on when he said “The best way to get success is to deserve success.”
It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.
You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life—while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.