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 KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Robyn in Strasbourg

I've seen this video before ... it's always so touching! Thanks for sharing.


Dear Beautiful Kristin, just wanted to let you know that you give so much to all of us! Not just teaching us new French words and culture, but you give a piece of your heart each time you write. I always feel like you've sent me a personal note! Thank you so much for that. (PS, I got myself a postcard rack for my LR to display our family photos, it reminds me of you!)

David Grundy

That's a great picture of your Mam, I hope she and you all have a great and Happy Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
God bless,

Pat Cargill

Thank you for this timely and beautiful blog, for reminders from you and Jules what giving can mean on a deeper, humane level. Had not see the video before-quite inspiring. Like Sheri, I too feel this personal connection from your writings, and I appreciate that you give of yourself (thoughts, emotions, open) and your life (family, friends, harvests) and experiences (travels, photographic wanderings). You are a blessing in our lives. You are a Giver.


Dear Kristin
Thank you for this video...what a beautiful human being and an example for us all! And thank you for all you are an inspiration!
Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Teresa Engebretsen

Merci, Kristin. What a beautiful reminder of the spirit of giving. Jules looks so beautiful! Joyeux Noël à toute ta famille!

Andrea Kay

Thank you for your creative beautiful posts. They always encourage me and have helped me with my French too! I look forward to sharing today's post with my family.
Merry Christmas!


Women for Women is a great giving site, with a "supermarket" offering things like okra seeds for women planters in Congo, a goat (!), bakery tins and flour, etc. (35 euro), a great site for the women of Africa who are suffering abuse and prejudice daily.

Sion @ paris (im)perfect

Thanks for this, Kristin. I have seen this video before and it's always very moving. I really do try to focus on the 'giving' part over the 'greed,' especially at this time of year. Thanks for encapsulating that lesson so well today.

gail bingenheimer

1 Corinthiens 12: 18-24
Mais maintenant Dieu a placé chaque membre dans le corps, comme il a voulu.
Et s'il n'étaient tous qu'un seul membre, où serait le corps?
Mais maintenat il ya a plusieurs membres, et un seul coups
Et l'oeil ne peut pas dire à la main; Je n'ai pas dire à la main: Je n'ai pas besoin de toi; ni encore la tête aux pids: Je n'ai pas besoin de vous.
Mais bien au contraire, les membres du coprs qui paraissent les plus faibles, sont nécessaires.
Et ceux que nous estmons les moins honorables dans le coprs, nous les entourons d'un plus grand honneur; de sorte que ceux qui sont les moins honnêtes, sont les plus honorés.

John Carr

Thanks for all you've given us over the years Kristin.
Happy Christmas to you and yours and all the best for 2011

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I watched the CNN Heroes Special a couple of weeks ago and saw so many giving people. It was a great special I was especially touched by Narayanan Krishnan. What an amazing man!
I love the picture of your mom!


Beautiful, thoughtful and timely. You and your mother have both inner and outer beauty. Thank you.

annie shultz

hi kristin,
love this story what a gorgeous man - and i have told you before that i look forward to your email - i bought your book during the year and 'i didn't miss a single word'
thank you for sharing your friendship with me - have a happy christmas and a wonderful next year
i hope to be going down to the southern highlands for lunch - i am scared because the wheelchair is so heavy and maybe the ramp that they are building won't work!!!!!annie xx

Robin Katsaros

Where do these thoughts come from? Deep within your soul....when I read your words I am always touched: with a tug at my heart, a smile on my lips, a giggle reaching down to my toes. You have a way with words and we can all see that it all began with Jules, dear Jules. Just yesterday I was shopping, wandering around trying to get something done in a hurry, always in a hurry, missing the moment and what is in front of me. Thinking as you, this season is so commercial and it has become so unpleasant and unpalatable. But your words couldn't be more true. This time of year it's about reaching down and learning the true joy and wisdom of the purpose of giving and how to give graciously. Thank you for giving us more than French words, much more! xo Robin

Cynthia Bertelsen

I'd seen this before and was overwhelmed by the spirit portrayed by this man. Blessings on him and his work!

Anne Wirth

Oh, you are so blessed to have a mother who would say such words of wisdom. Your story about the Indian chef was very moving. Thanks for putting in your page today.

Jules Greer

Kristi Darling - I just finished writing a big long old note to you and the computer ate it up - so you can imagine what my mood is at this very moment. Maybe I'll come back later and try again. I am so happy to have my computer back, I forgot how angry I can get at it...@#&#$!!!



Mike Hardcastle

I love Christmas but I remind myself by playing Tom Lehrer's 'A Christmas Carol' of how disgustingly commercial it can become if we let it.
The lines, 'God rest you merry merchants may you make the Yuletide pay, Angels we have heard on high, tell us to go out and buy.'
For those who may find these lines blasphemous may I just say that the real blasphemy is the enticement for people to buy beyond their means.
Here's to Narayanan Krishnan and those like him.

Just a little thought, is someone looking after the 'untouchable' women in a similar way?

I echo everything everyone else has said about about today's blog, you seem to find something fresh each day to lift my spirits.

Very best wishes,


Julie Schorr

It is a wonderful video! It is both heartbreaking and inspirational. Thank you for sharing it here. Beautiful picture of Jules!
Have a wonderful holiday season!!

Annette Heath

Merci pour the beautiful photos of Jules. She is as beautiful on the inside as the outside. Vous etes tres gentille to share her with us. Annette Heath


What a moving video and what a beautiful person. Thank you for reminding us of what true giving can be.

And by the way-- what a beautiful photo of your mom!

Pamela Cherry

I want to copy and paste all of the posts before mine, I want to echo all that each person writes. You write wonderfully, I love reading your emails, they bring additional warmth in to my life that is so blessed already,YOU are the icing on the cake.
A very happy Christmas to you and your family (2 and 4 legged)
Pamela and Robert Cherry

Linda R.

Today's post is very moving and so timely - thank you for introducing us to Narayanan Krishnan who truly exemplifies the spirit of giving. It brings to mind Matthew 25:34-40.

Paul Beck


Thanks for your thoughts today about giving. Your words and video reminded me of a video and song I came across last year at this time that talks about the Joy of Christmas. Thank you for reminding me the true reason of this season and the joy that comes to us by reaching out and helping those around us. The video can be found at

May your Christmas be full of joy!

Paul Beck

Holly Kulhawick

What a powerful video!! You're right. This is what Christmas is supposed to be about. Thank you for this timely reminder!

I have been troubled for some time at the thought of people going hungry in my community, but I'm not sure where to get funding to help? How does this man manage? Does anyone know?

At any rate, thanks so much for this Christmas blog. Very moving.

PS - Its 4 degree F, 40 mph winds and even the cat won't go outside!! Cold, snowy (6 inches at least) day in Michigan.


Hi Kristin, Thank you for inspiring me today. I am so humbled by this amazing man and his giving heart. We are all one in The Body, all reflections of God's creating spirit. Truly it is a matter of learning how to give. What a blessing to have Jules in your life. Thank you for opening me heart today. Mary

Jules Greer

Kristi Darling - where is everybody??? I have been thinking of Dorthy Dufore (sp?) lately (hope I didn't spell her last name wrong) I so love her comments. Now that I
have my computer back I am getting to know Herm better, looks like he is giving those other two guys that have been following you around for years a run for their money. I am always so delighted with the male respone to your blog, they are so much fun to read. Where is my DARLING NEWFOREST - not to be one of those critizing (sp?) Mothers, but NEWFOREST brought your blog to a new and higher demension. All of her comments should be placed in a special book, maybe we should talk about that also when you arrive here in SUNNY, WARM (85 DEGREES) Mexico.

I'm off to give 'give' smiles and hugs to everyone I see on the beach this morning. I especially love talking to the beach vendors, maybe I'll take a few photo's now that I can once again download my photo's into my computer.

I am so happy today - I hope you are too Honey.

You write like an ANGEL.



Julie McCay Turner

Such a difference between presents and gifts

Gwyn Ganjeau

I"M SO GLAD YOU ARE BACK, JULES!! It has felt as though the big box of Crayolas was missing a crucial color!

Thank you, Kristin for an important reminder. I will mail a check to a food bank today--and look 5 strangers in the eye and smile. :) (That one doesn't count.)


Simple acts of kindness multiply exponentially. By you sharing Narayanan's video, you open hearts around the world to find some simple act they can do for someone else.
A hot meal.
A hug.
Time to sit and listen to a stranger's story.
A hat and scarf and mittens.
A grocery store gift card for a family who's struggling to make ends meet.

It is the season for giving.

Mc Kenna

This man gives new definition to the title "Iron Chef." I'd like to his video running on the Food Network throughout the holidays.


Greetings Kristi! Never commented on a blog before so not sure if this is actually going to you, hope so. BEAUTIFUL post and perfect timing! Brought tears to my eyes but did not blur my reaching, reaching, reaching. Happy holidays to the Espinasse family from your NW friends! Eugenia

Joan Linneman

The tennis coach (and physical science teacher) at our school has a sign outside her door that says "Live once;serve twice"
We do need reminders that we can do so much more to help others.
With the commercialization of the Christmas season (I forgot, Holiday season...), sometimes it is embarrassing to be American.
Joan L.


I love this post and Christmas is a special time for giving. My "kids", now young adults, have had the privilege of being part of a large family as my husband is one of 10 and also part of a much smaller family on my side. This year, on my husbands side, the kids over 18 are donating their Kris-kringle money into Father Chris Riley's Youth off the Street foundation and on my side we are all sharing in making a donation into a little known aboriginal group called MJD Foundation. My kids have helped research a cause that needs some special support which I think is wonderful. I agree that this is a time to stop busy lives and think outside our own lives and hopefully carry the thoughts with us a little further into the year. From the sounds of it I think many of us are doing just this which makes Christmas such a special time to take time out for family and friends and to share in a larger world. Cheers xx


PS SOOO glad you have your computer back Jules even though it seems to have a cantankerous life of it's own...don't let it get the better of you! ;-)

eduardo lynum

It's great what Narayanan could do for humanity! There's a saying "that is more blessed to give than to receive." I wish I could do this more often.Take Care!

Geary Arceneaux

What a kind man, an inspiration indeed.

Peggy Reynolds

Beautiful post. I love Julie McCay Turner's comment "Such a difference between presents and gifts." There is also a huge difference between presents and presence. Narayanan 'showed up'. He recognized a need that he could fill and he did. May we all be as present in our lives and as generous with our gifts of the heart.

I love that photo of your mom. Beauty and style, inside and out!

Light and love,

Connie Venskus

Dear Kristin,
You are a giving spirit. Thank you for sharing this beautiful gift that reminds us of what it is all about! Giving with the whole of oneself! This youg man reminds me of Mother Teresa who also showed us about giving... Her spirit still lives in him!!!

Bill McNabb

Dear Kristin,
Thanks so much for reminding us that half of life is learning to enjoy the great gifts God has given to us (like food and wine) and the other is to serve those less fortunate. You have a great heart.
Bill McNabb

Sharon Auckerman

Not much time these days to comment, but could not pass up the opportunity to say what a beautiful woman Jules is. It is obvious where the family looks start!!!


Thank you for this post...and for turning me on to the CNN Heroes. It's a good reminder of the real reason of Christmas. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Kristen! And thank you for your heartfelt blog.


ditto Sheri and Robin!
bises, m

Jules Greer

Kristi Darling,

I've been thinking about your post all day long - you know me I love to motovate (sp?) people to give love etc...but just reading Bill McNabb's comment clicked my little mind back to the thought I have been having lately that you should have some kind of contest this month for a super Christmas gift of a case or two of Jean-Marc's wonderful wine. I'm sure JM could figure out how many cases and the logistics etc. We
(You) could do this every year - what a great thing this would be for all of us players to look forward to. We could name your first chicken (if Jean-Marc) would promise to let you have some this next spring. This would be so much fun, you would win cause you would finaly get your chickens and the lucky winner would have wine to celebrate Christmas with a joyful song - (after drinking a bottle of Rouge-Bleu!!!!

Well now I have stirred the pot I'll finish my dinner.



Marianne Rankin

Narayanan Krishnan is doing wonderful work. I'm glad to know about him.

Paul, thanks for the link to joy for everyone.

There are so many needs in the world, and more and more organizations are striving to meet them. I recently read the book "Three Cups of Tea" (, which describes efforts to build schools, especially but not only for girls, in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Dozens have been built, with more planned. Even small donations help: a penny will buy a pencil.

Yes, Christmas in the USA is hopelessly commercialized, and getting more so all the time. Years ago, my mother and I decided that one of our gifts to each other would be a contribution to a charity instead. I've now supported Save the Children for 28 years.

There are other organizations that help families become independent: Hefer Project International is one of them.

What's important to remember (and I've heard this from numerous charitable organizations) is to give ALL YEAR, not just at Christmastime.

Alice Halliday

Just flicking through these commments I so agree with Bill McNabb and Jeannie's comments. We need to forget ourselves while remembering the needs of others. You have a BIG heart Kristin. This is a more profound view of the Christmas message.
Can anyone recommmend a Charity I could help anywhere in South America that I could also visit?
Alice from near Oxford, UK

Ophelia in Nashville

Kristin -- I am late to this post but it has moved me profoundly this morning. Thank you......

Fred Caswell

Chere Kristi, yesterday I read your "donner" blog and received yet another gift of love from you as your readers always do in all your thrice-weekly FWDs. Today, with the reading of all the comments there were so many gifts of love given to all the readers by all the posters. I thank you and your commentators!

This year my gifts to some of my adult children and grands were words of love and notice that donations were given to worthy charity organizations. Also, Nancy and I agreed to sharply limit our gifts to each other and to split the cost of a gift of a sheep by way of Heifer International.

So pleased that my gift-of-life has lasted long enough for a slow learner to reach this point -- so much more maturing to do.

From a known hugger, hugs to ALL, especially to Kristi!

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Purely beautiful Kristi! Thank you for all you give so generously. I too would love to “like”, or rather “love”, so many of the comments that came before me here.

Hello to Jules! So wonderful to have you back and such perfect timing!

Blessings to all!


Dear Kristen,
Thank you so much for this beautiful and timely post.. It touched my heart and I'm sure the hearts of so many others. Mr. Krishnan is indeed a hero of the highest sort. However, these beautiful people to whom he ministers are themselves blessings. This is the true message of Christmas. Once more, may you and your beautiful family have a blessed one.


Wooow! Jules! stylish hat, radiant smile!...

A bit behind with my comments for this newsletter. For a couple of weeks I'll be away from my laptop, giving all my time for what I would simply call 'a worthwhile cause' (not something I could physically and mentally do all the year round with the same intensity). I'll try to pop in when/if I can...

I do admire that 'man with a mission' --> 'saving his people'. I hadn't heard about Narayanan Krishnan before, so, thank you very much for the video. This man -though not sharing the same religion (but this is irrelevant)- has a lot in common with Mother Theresa's spirit and attitude. He gives us a great lesson about compassion, love and affection for the most depraved human being.
Mother Theresa used to say:
"It is not how much we give,
but how much love we put in the giving"...


Jules didn't mention any date about your arrival in 'SUNNY, WARM (85 DEGREES) Mexico'
If soon, have a very good journey. No doubt you will have the most wonderful time!

mary Paulson

Kristin, what a powerful telling of this man being so touched. I vow this year to give
something of me to my neighbors. I have a neurological condition that takes alot of my energy. But I will find something to give. you can bet on that for sure. I will let you know when I see what I can contribute.

Monica Gfrorer

What a wonderful video. I would like to share it. What is the link address?

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