Posted by: Michelle UluOla | April 22, 2010

G + R = FS

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to ask for help when we need it the most. Learning that we can and should is one of life’s most challenging lessons for some people, especially in Western society. Women have a natural, maternal instinct that prompts them to be nurturing, and our culture encourages them to do so in ways that may be unhealthy. Men have been taught they have to uphold a macho image of self-sufficiency. Add to those traits, the American ideals of self-reliance and independence, and our country is populated by a lot of folks who have a difficult time receiving gracefully. Here is the paradox: those same people are expert givers. Hmm, now it seems we have a dilemma here. On the one hand, we have a large community with generous hearts that wants to help others, while on the other, we have an equally large group that needs help and support but doesn’t want to ask for or accept it.

In the world of commerce, this would be a ridiculously impossible situation. If there is a supply of something, some advertiser will come along to create a demand for it, and a balance is achieved by negotiating a fair price. When things are working right, all parties walk away feeling they struck a good deal. But in the field of human relations, the currency used to arrange exchanges is feelings, not greenbacks. We’re all familiar with the joy we get when we do something nice for someone, and they beam back a smile of delight or gush their gratitude. However, don’t some of us often suffer a feeling of discomfort when we’re on the opposite end, especially when we’re given an unexpected present? Before our thank you is out of our mouth, our minds are racing for ways to pay them back. What is all that scorekeeping about? It’s time to change our minds and hearts about how we feel about giving and receiving.

Many of us have been brainwashed since early childhood with the old saw, “It’s better to give than receive.” While giving is certainly a worthy endeavor, we forget that in order to give something, someone else has to be on the receiving end. I’m no Einstein, but I do know there are two sides to every equation. It can’t be just about the giver. When I first thought about it, I began with R = G x 2. Here’s how I came up with that: when something is received, the giver has given a heartfelt gift, and the receiver has done likewise. The gift the receiver gives in return is enabling that glow of warm feelings that the giver experiences during the process. Even when there is anonymous giving involved, the receiver sends out a thank you feeling that the donor’s heart senses. So, receiving actually involves two gifts given. The receiver completes the circuit that allows good to flow back to the giver…so that appears to be a giving-receiving-circle.

Life is often referred to as a circle, and giving and receiving are an integral part of it. But just like we were taught back in kindergarten, we have to take turns. A mother gives birth; a baby receives life without embarrassment. Our bodies receive the Sun’s light and turn it into the vitamin D we need to build strong bones. We sow seeds; they receive the water and nutrients given them, and the plants grow and give us food in return. “What goes around, comes around” is not just a cliché; it’s a Universal Law. You give something, and something comes back to you, though not necessarily from the same point—the Universe doesn’t function like a boomerang and often delivers the return parcel multiplied. Of course, that principle works regardless of what’s going around, because another Universal Law is that Like attracts like. If you give something positive, that’s what you get back. The same is true for negative emissions.

So far, it looks like my posited, R = G x 2, is holding up pretty well. But that equation might not fully balance out all the gifts and receipts. There are other forms of giving and receiving, and their ripple effects need to be taken into account. We go to work and give our time and efforts. While we receive the wages our employers give us in exchange, whatever work we do, we are actually giving something to other people. With our talents, we produce a product they need or provide a service they require. When we fill our tanks at the pump, we often grumble about the high price of gasoline, rather than celebrating being able to drive wherever we want. If we stop to think about the people who are out on a dirty, dangerous, lonely oil rig working to find and process the fuel we need for our cars and homes, it might be easier to gratefully receive their gifts. We casually pick up a gallon of milk at the grocery store and mutter about the cost at the checkout counter. But consider for a moment the cow that did all that cud chewing, often in less than desirable conditions, and the farmer who dragged himself out of bed in the dark to  milk her and clean the barn. All of a sudden, that jug of milk takes on the appearance of a gift. An author gives the gift of words to readers who pay their money to read them. Yet, when those words are inspired and inspiring, the author will be the first to tell you that his or her readers’ acceptance and encouragement are appreciated gifts in addition to any cash received. Consider how the gifts of music makers reverberate. And when a baby is given the gift of life, how many family members and friends garner joy from that, not to mention the eventual contributions that child brings to the planet? We are all part of a World Wide Web and are connected to each other and everything, whether we have a computer or not.

The above examples appear to be less of a closed circle and more of a rippling outward, so my original equation isn’t adequate to explain giving and receiving at that level, nor on a further plane. Medical research done at Harvard University, the University of California at San Diego, and the Institute of HeartMath, yielded some fascinating results. Their studies showed that performing an act of kindness naturally increases the serotonin levels in the brains of both the giver and receiver, which strengthens their immune systems. Serotonin is an organic neurotransmitter, a type of endorphin, which helps people feel happy—that’s why antidepressant drugs are used to increase serotonin levels. It’s what creates a runner’s high. Furthermore, researchers were startled to discover that merely witnessing an act of giving or receiving kindness or charity also increased the brain chemicals in the witnesses, helping them feel happy and strengthening their immune systems! Talk about a ripple effect! Positive emotions are proving to enhance brain function, heart health, and even, longevity. Some sobering words of caution need to be inserted here, though: the research additionally showed the opposite results for those involved in angry exchanges or violent acts. Along with the participants, the witnesses to those events also had their attitudes and health effected negatively. Perhaps that’s something to consider when exposing children or adults to violent TV programs or video games, arguments or the chanting of angry words at a rally?

As I pondered all of the above, I realized my equation was far too limiting, and I recalled something that seems much more fitting: the Fibonacci sequence! If that name sounds familiar, you might be recalling the references to it in The Da Vinci Code. Leonardo Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician who wrote Liber Abaci in 1202 in which he advocated for the use of the Arabic numeral system and the nine digits used by the Indian Hindus, plus zero. [Roman numerals didn’t work well for arithmetic, or counting off—imagine soldiers in line shouting, “eye, eye-eye, eye-eye-eye, eye-vee, vee!”] Fibonacci gathered together mathematical knowledge from around the world, including Egyptian fractions, Chinese remainder theorem, and the algebraic calculus of the Persian Muslim, Al-Karaji, still in use today. While the numerical sequence was well-known and used in ancient India, after Fibonacci introduced it to Western Europe, his name became tied to it. The Fibonacci sequence of numbers is: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, etc. Each number is the sum of the previous two numbers: 0+1=1, 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 3+2=5, 5+3=8, and so on into infinity. If you can envision a diagram showing that progression, you would see an ever-enlarging spiral. Ah-ha! Or maybe it would be more mathematically appropriate to hearken back to Archimedes or Carl Friedrich Gauss, who echoed him, and exclaim (though fully clothed): Eureka!

In light of that, imagine the positive change reaction that can be set off by one simple, random act of kindness: a bright smile, nod of acknowledgment, genuine compliment, door held open for a total stranger, making their day, strengthening their immune system and yours, providing warm fuzzies that inspire sharing. The Beach Boys knew what they were singing about…good, Good Vibrations…

So, here’s my new, all-encompassing equation: G + R = FS, or the combination of Giving and Receiving equals the spiral of the Fibonacci sequence. Along with that, consider these ideas. If you remember that when you need and ask for help, you are actually giving someone else the opportunity to give and receive, you will find that asking and receiving is easier. You are actually starting a new ripple. Every act of kindness vibrates. Each day of our lives, we are part of the flow of giving and receiving, enhancing our own health and well-being and that of countless others. The Love fueling that process will eventually spiral outward, touching every atom in the Universe with the Light of Kindness. Now isn’t that amazing? ©UluOla 2010



  1. Michelle, I have got so much deeper understanding because of your beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing, great writer!
    Lot’s of Blessings, Love and Light ♥


    • You’re very welcome, Angelika. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and thank you for your kind words. Many blessings of Love and Light to you! M


  2. What a Great post Michelle, it showed so many ways to assist others and receive at the same time. Just posting this gave me the opportunity to read it, and blessed I am for doing so as well.
    I’ve had many people knock on my door at 2 and 3 a.m. saying they needed help and had heard that I would assist them if they only asked me. I was always happy to assist someone even if it did break into my rest time…after all I can catch a nap if need be during the day.
    I tend to pray when I need help asking God to use someone that is asking to help in someway or another others that need help.
    I have always received just what I needed at the time I needed it as well. Thanks for the Great post my friend…I will look forward to reading more at a later time.
    Love and Light
    Tsimi James


    • Thank you so much, Tsimi James, for your kind words and support. And thank you for always being there with a helping hand, and most especially, sharing your Light-Beacon with the world. Many blessings of Love and Light back to you, Michelle


  3. I have commented in the past that the activities in which I am involved and the people woven into my life “fuel” me. Your message provides an energizing rationale for my experiences. Besides that, it was fun to see how you used your math skills. Some former teachers would be thrilled. And, I own the HeartMath Learning Program. (I should dig it out again!) Many thanks, Janine


    • Thank you for the kind words, Janine. Yes, I know you already knew about HeartMath–such a cool place. It was fun doing writing that column. I’ve been following that research for quite awhile and hope it will benefit more people as they become aware of it, too. I especially enjoyed the old, Roman numeral joke a take-off from a long ago stand-up routine by Steven Wright or David Brenner (can’t remember which)–wonder how many people will “get it.” 😉


  4. Michelle, your words are timely to me indeed.
    I broke a bone in my foot last weekend (while in Utah for goodness sake….) and have had to shift radically to a mode of asking for help from all quarters. This has been surprisingly hard for me, as I have soldiered on through 2 other injuries in recent history, w/o asking for much assist. This one has me quite dependent in new ways! So thank you for this beautiful essay whose words I will carry me through each day, as I ask those around me for help during this time of healing……blessings, claudia


    • Thank you for your kind words, Claudia. It’s interesting that just over the past two days, a lot of things on the subject of giving/receiving are popping up all over, especially on Facebook. I’m so sorry to hear about your broken bone and hope that it will heal faster than anyone expects–I’ll send you some Reconnective Healing. Many blessings of Love, Light and Healing to you, Michelle


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