| Family Reflections |

The Gift of Generous Receiving

A gracious receiver makes the giver feel good


Many people find it hard to be on the receiving end. Being a giver makes them feel strong, whereas being a receiver makes them feel weak. “No, you sit down, I’m serving, you’re the guest!” says a well-meaning hostess. She thinks she’s allowing her guest to have a bit of luxurious rest.

Sometimes she’s correct. There are some guests who truly enjoy sitting back and chatting with others while a hostess runs back and forth from the kitchen, bringing platters in, clearing others away.

However, there are some guests who are uncomfortable watching a woman run herself ragged while everyone else acts like they’re at a good restaurant. “I want to help out,” says Chani. “I know what it’s like to be the only one serving, missing out on all the good conversation and being the last one to eat. I really want to ease the burden for my friends and relatives who are kind enough to invite me and my family for a meal. And it really bothers me when they refuse to let me help!”

She’s complaining about not being allowed to ease someone else’s burden. She wants the opportunity to experience the pleasure of helping another person. When someone denies her that opportunity, she feels stifled rather than relieved.

Hard to Buy For

“My sister is very generous with gifts. Her husband makes a fantastic living, and she’s not the type to hoard it all for herself. She loves to buy things for others. You should see what she does for my birthday every year: a really generous gift, a gorgeous card, some sort of ‘experience’ like a voucher for a day spa, and usually high-end chocolates or a fancy dinner to top it all off. Now, I’m not in her financial bracket, but I can certainly afford to buy her something on her birthday, too. But she’s always pushing me away. If I ask her what she’d like she absolutely refuses to suggest anything. ‘Nothing. I have everything I want. Please don’t bother.’ How is that even fair? I want to get her something, not just because she gave me something, but because she’s my sister and I want to celebrate her birthday. So then I just try to get something I think she’ll like. I know she doesn’t need anything, but ‘it’s the thought that counts,’ right?

“So I spend time thinking (quite a lot of time actually) and then shopping (another investment of time) and then picking up a card and writing something thoughtful. Then when all that is said and done and her birthday arrives, I tell her something like, ‘I’m sorry. I know you didn’t want anything, but I just wanted to acknowledge your special day. I hope you like it...’ and then I give her whatever item I picked up for her.

“Unfortunately, she’s not good at hiding her feelings. I can always tell she’s unimpressed because of her lifeless, glassy-eyed, ‘Thanks so much. It’s really nice.’ A little more enthusiasm would be greatly welcomed!

“I guess she never learned the art of receiving graciously, the skill of giving someone the pleasure of giving.”

Hitting the Spot

“I had such a blast celebrating my mother-in-law’s birthday this year! It was a big one so I’d been thinking about it for a long time. I wanted to get her something I knew she’d love. Starting almost a year ago, I paid attention whenever she was talking to anyone about something she enjoyed — a purse she admired, an author she liked, a food she fancied. I kept my eye out for something similar that I could purchase for her special day. For instance, once I knew that she liked the art of a certain creator, I looked for a birthday card or a piece of china or some jewelry designed by that person. Using this ‘spying’ strategy, I was able to buy her a unique ring dish, a particular book I knew she’d be interested in, a designer scarf, and tickets to an art show. When I gave everything to her on her birthday, she couldn’t believe how I got her gifts that were so tailor-made for her. She went on for months afterward about it.

“Her response was exactly what I’d hoped for; her generous thanks made me feel like a million dollars! Thank you so much, dear MIL, for giving me the gift of giving!”


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 883)

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