Value of Giving: Story shared by an American actress, Katharine Hepburn

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Katharine Hepburn.
Katharine Hepburn.

Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003) was an American actress and leading lady in Hollywood for more than 60 years. She appeared in a range of genres, from screwball comedy to literary drama, and she received a record four Academy Awards for Lead Acting Performances, plus eight further nominations.

In 1999, Hepburn was named by the American Film Institute the greatest female star of Classic Hollywood Cinema. She was known for her fierce independence, spirited personality and the pushing of boundaries for women.

Raised in Connecticut by wealthy, progressive parents, Hepburn began to act while studying at Bryn Mawr College. Favourable reviews of her work on Broadway brought her to the attention of Hollywood.

Her early years in the film were marked with success, including an Academy Award for Best Actress for her third picture, ‘Morning Glory’ (1933), but this was followed by a series of commercial failures culminating in the critically lauded but commercially unsuccessful comedy Bringing Up Baby (1938), a pairing with Cary Grant.

Hepburn masterminded her own comeback, buying out her contract with RKO Radio Pictures and acquiring the film rights to The Philadelphia Story, which she sold on the condition that she be the star.

That comedy film, again co-starring Grant, was a box office success and landed her a third Academy Award nomination, plus won her other co-star, James Stewart, his only Academy Award. Both movies are now considered among the greatest comedy films.

In the 1940s, she began a screen and romantic partnership with Spencer Tracy, which spanned 26 years and nine movies, although the romance with the married Tracy was hidden from the public.

The partnership began with Woman of the Year (1942), continued with Adam’s Rib (1949), both being “battle of the sexes” romantic comedies, and concluded with the race-issue drama Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), also starring Sidney Poitier; Tracy died shortly after the movie’s filming.

Hepburn challenged herself in the latter half of her life, as she tackled Shakespearean stage productions and a range of literary roles. She found a niche playing middle-aged spinsters, such as in The African Queen (1951), which landed her another Academy Award nomination.

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) was another commercial and critical success and landed her another Oscar nomination. Hepburn earned three more Oscars for her work in ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ (1967), ‘The Lion in Winter’ (1968), and ‘On Golden Pond’ (1981), co-starring Henry Fonda, who won his only Academy Award for the movie.

 In the 1970s, she began appearing in television films, which later became the focus of her career. She made her final screen appearance at the age of 87. After a period of inactivity and ill health, Hepburn died in 2003 at the age of 96.

Hepburn famously shunned the Hollywood publicity machine and refused to conform to society’s expectations of women. She was outspoken, assertive, and athletic, and wore trousers before they were fashionable for women.

She was briefly married as a young woman but thereafter lived independently. With her unconventional lifestyle and the independent characters she brought to the screen, Hepburn epitomized the “modern woman” in the 20th-century United States, and is remembered as an important cultural figure.

This is the story Katherine Hepburn shared about the value of giving

Once when I was a teenager, my father and I were standing in line to buy tickets for the circus.

Finally, there was only one other family between us and the ticket counter. This family made a big impression on me.

There were eight children, all probably under the age of 12. The way they were dressed, you could tell they didn’t have a lot of money, but their clothes were neat and clean.

The children were well-behaved, all of them standing in line, two-by-two behind their parents, holding hands. They were excitedly jabbering about the clowns, animals, and all the acts they would be seeing that night. By their excitement, you could sense they had never been to the circus before. It would be a highlight of their lives.

The father and mother were at the head of the pack standing proud as could be. The mother was holding her husband’s hand, looking up at him as if to say, “You’re my knight in shining armour.” He was smiling and enjoying seeing his family happy.

The ticket lady asked the man how many tickets he wanted? He proudly responded, “I’d like to buy eight children’s tickets and two adult tickets, so I can take my family to the circus.” The ticket lady stated the price.

The man’s wife let go of his hand, her head dropped, the man’s lip began to quiver. Then he leaned a little closer and asked, “How much did you say?” The ticket lady again stated the price.

The man didn’t have enough money. How was he supposed to turn and tell his eight kids that he didn’t have enough money to take them to the circus?

Seeing what was going on, my dad reached into his pocket, pulled out a $20 bill, and then dropped it on the ground. (We were not wealthy in any sense of the word!) My father bent down, picked up the $20 bill, tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, sir, this fell out of your pocket.”

The man understood what was going on. He wasn’t begging for a handout but certainly appreciated the help in a desperate, heartbreaking and embarrassing situation.

He looked straight into my dad’s eyes, took my dad’s hand in both of his, squeezed tightly onto the $20 bill, and with his lip quivering and a tear streaming down his cheek, he replied; “Thank you, thank you, sir. This really means a lot to me and my family.”

My father and I went back to our car and drove home. The $20 that my dad gave away is what we were going to buy our own tickets with.

Although we didn’t get to see the circus that night, we both felt a joy inside us that was far greater than seeing the circus could ever provide.

That day I learnt the value to Give.

The Giver is bigger than the Receiver.

If you want to be large; larger than life, learn to Give.

Only if you Give can you Receive more. The Givers’ heart becomes the Ocean, in tune with the Almighty – The Source.

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.

Experts in psychology have confirmed that in helping others to ease stress, was getting involved in assisting others to stimulate excretion of Endorphin, a hormone which helps in feeling psychological comfort and excitement.

The reward of goodness is nothing but goodness.

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