pièces jaunes


Christmas in Provence (c) Kristin Espinasse

How much is that kitty in the window? Photo taken in Vaison La Romaine. Never miss a Provençal picture, sign up for French Word-A-Day.

donner (doh-nay) verb

    : to give      => donner secours = to give help, aid

All the "definitions" for the word "to give" are in today's story. Read on.

Hear the word 'donner' pronounced: Download donner.wav


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

The Art of Giving

The other day I called Jules in Mexico to ask for her help in giving. What could I give my belle-famille for Christmas? What could I give my friends? The idea of giving someone something that they may not like or need makes me want to just give up and call this season "greed".

"It's all so commercial!" I complain to my mom. 
"That's not the point," Jules argues. "It's about learning to give...."

Learning to give. Jules is right! How many of us need practice in, as Mom calls it, "The Art of Giving"? This season may be a commercial one (one that began some time on Black Friday...) but if, amidst the cramped cash registers and credit-card turnover--if we can learn to reach down deep into our pockets... then maybe the act of reaching will be the first in many more automatic acts of kindness?

Yesterday I learned about a man who exemplifies the art of giving (and thanks to Christine Buckley for pointing us in his direction). Narayanan Krishnan was already at that time a celebrated chef at a Five Star hotel there in India and was on his way to Switzerland, where he was short-listed for an elite post. But on the way out of his Indian village, he had the shock of a lifetime. He witnessed a man eating his very own waste in order to quiet his hunger pangs.

Narayanan Krishnan did not go to Switzerland. Instead, he sat down on the floor with his trusty cutting board...  and began fixing meals for that hunger-pangued man, and for others who could not care for themselves. The following year, in 2003, he founded the nonprofit group Akshaya Trust ( 

29-year-old Narayanan Krishnan wakes at 4 am to begin the work to feed the homeless, the mentally ill, and the old—those who, as Narayanan points out, have been left uncared for by society.

In the following video (click over to the blog if you are reading via email), Narayanan shows us how to give with the whole being: body and soul:

He makes the food...

he carries it to the incapacitated

he feeds it to the weak, hand to mouth

he washes their wasted bodies

he cuts their hair "for them to feel, psychologically, that they are also human beings"

he gives them a shave

he prays at their feet

he holds their hand

he makes them laugh!

he takes them into his arms and hugs them...

 "Food is one part, love is another part," Narayanan explains. "Food gives them physical nutrition; the love and affection which you show will give them mental nutrition!"

Along with hunger, there is dignity, along with an empty stomach, there is a heart in need.

"We are all the same," Narayanan remarks. "Everybody has got 5.5 liters of blood. I am just a human being. For me everybody the same!"

After viewing such an act of kindness, we are inspired to break out and to do the same... we wonder, as Narayanan did, about the purpose and the meaning of our own life: what is it if not to reach out and help others?

"There are thousands and thousands and lots and lots of people suffering...

...What is the ultimate purpose of life?

It's to give!

Start giving

See the joy of giving."


To comment on this story, click here.
To view the video (for those reading via email), click here and skip to the end of this story. To fully appreciate the clip, watch it twice (reading the captions second time around).

Note: Narayanan is one of the Top Ten CNN heroes for 2010. 

Looking for places to give? Not sure how to choose the right charity? Check out Charity Navigator. Many of the charities offer the possibility to sign up for monthly sponsoring -- a great way to ensure that some of your earnings regularly go to those who really need it. To recommend a charity, use the comments box


My beautiful-hearted mom, "Jules". 


Jules says to look a person in the eye when you smile, that's one way to begin giving. And to never underestimate the power of touch. Happy Holidays. Hugs to all!

French christmas music French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Les anges dans nos campagnes". CD here. 

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety