Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Giving and receiving...

There's something I've been meaning to talk about for a while and someone's blog entry brought it to mind.

Reciprocity. Giving and receiving.. and the balance it creates...

Right now, I am taking care of D after her foot surgery. It doesn't take much. Since she's basically medically ordered to stay off her feet, I just make sure she's comfortable, has meals, snacks, her newspaper, take her to medical appointments and run her errands ...

It's really not such a big thing and it takes nothing from me to do it.

Last night, I made contact with someone who is going to revamp the look of this blog. It was offered freely and the only thing asked of me is to "pay it forward". I will happily do that.

My point in citing these examples is that I hear a lot of talk and read a lot of comments (not comments in the blog sense but.. just comments.. in the traditional meaning of the word) about "not being a burden", "not wanting to take something for nothing" and other such indications that a person is uncomfortable without equalizing. My father's suicide note included the phrase, "I don't want to be a burden to anyone."

A few months back, I offered to send some cookies to a guy in Thailand who can not get his favorite brand there. It was just a gesture on my part. He snapped back with a retort to the effect of "I never take anything from anyone. I don't want to owe anyone anything." We're talking about cookies! Not a loan for a down payment on a house! When I told him I expected nothing but if he is uncomfortable , perhaps one day he could send me some Thai tea, he immediately responded, "Oh, now I get it."

Without realizing it, that guy seriously offended me. Truthfully, he offended me to the degree that I discontinued contact with him. The entire interaction changed from friendly back-and-forth token giving to his suspicion of my motives and basically a veiled accusation that I was trying to pull something.

What's wrong with friendly gestures that have absolutely no agenda? I don't give with expectations and I am learning to receive without feeling the need to immediately and equally reciprocate.

I believe we have the task of learning two lessons while we are here on this earth, here in community. We need to learn not only how to give (that's an obvious one) but we need to learn how to receive with grace, to allow others the pleasure of giving without turning it into a barter. No score-keeping. Sharing resources is one of the most fundamental lessons of our earth-time, in my opinion, and I always cringe when it is turned into commerce.




Christine said...

You are so right. We need to find ways to give and receive with expectation or excuse. That guy would have offended me for sure! Why do some people always think that there is a motive to our actions? You can send me cookies anytime (just kidding! LOL)!

Julie Pippert said...

Oh Chani, speak to my heart.

I was just sharing an incident with a friend---one similar to your cookie story---and we talked about how she had also experienced simialarly. We're both sorts who get involved and offer.

And we've hit "cookie people." It gives us pause. Which can be good. But it has also caused us to be unsure sometimes, caused us to delay or not offer at times.

It came up because in front of us we have a friend who we feel needs help and friends now. But she's putting up a wall.

I guess the wisdom is in knowing when to respect and when to ignore those walls.

I think your offer was generous and should have been accepted with a thanks. It was bad manners, otherwise.

I agree with this 100%: We need to learn not only how to give (that's an obvious one) but we need to learn how to receive with grace, to allow others the pleasure of giving without turning it into a barter.

Mary said...

We were never taught to receive compliments or gifts graciously? I see that type of attitude frequently and what that guy said to you was almost neurotic, I think.

This was a nice post and a reminder for us to give and receive kindly. Also, we should learn to receive a gift without feeling obligated to reciprocate.

Hey, I'd love for someone to send me cookies! And I know enough not to say, "How much do I owe you?".

Anonymous said...

It is so much easier to give than to receive. I love to give things to people, makes me happy. I'm fortunate to have enough money at this time in my life, so I like giving. But I also understand that some people feel a debt when they receive, which is never my intent.
Katie has taught me to receive. Some many people have been kind enough to help us raise her, some pain, some unpaid, it's taught me to receive with more grace.

slouching mom said...

Yes. I think it's just another symptom of what ails this culture.

Two days ago I was picking Jack up from school when a teacher came running into the hall to say that a little girl had missed her bus. Her mom was at home watching over two sleeping young ones, so I offered to take this little girl to her house.

What did the gesture require of me? Maybe ten or fifteen extra minutes of driving. But from the teachers' response, you'd think I was going to be doing 24 hours' worth of hard labor.


Anonymous said...

Ooh. Ooh. Thank you! You just gave me another reason to be happy with my life. It means a lot because I need constant reminders.

My time is flexible and I can do with it what I choose. I'm really happy to help others. I love it when people make thoughtful gestures toward me, and it's made me try to be more that way as well. Other people are worth making time for...(did you recently have a post on that? Someone did...pardon my non-existent short term memory.)

QT said...

AMEN - I love to give stuff to people, I am a bad receiver of compliments & gifts and I know it. It is not that I say things like "What do I owe you?", I was taught to be humble, but not how to graciously accept a compliment without degrading the statement (What a beautiful sweater! - Thanks, it was really cheap.) Why not stop at the THANKS part? I am getting better at it.

Anonymous said...

To give is so easy and so gratifying. We receive more in feedback when giving than what we give actually, even if it is not the purpose ( or we think so.)

To receive is much more difficult. Can you rather tell us a story when you "had to" receive?

thailandchani said...

Christine, I would love to send you some cookies! :) The guy with the blog (can't think of another way to address him without using his name. TGWTB) is very, very, well, acculturated to the land of his birth. He'd been taught long ago (just as many of us are) to never trust anything that is offered without conditions.

How was that for a try at diplomacy? :)



Julie, the hardest part about your friend is that acculturation here demands that she at least pretend to not want or need help.

I find that one difficult. The only way I've found around it is to help anonymously. It limits what we can do.. but at least then we can send a day-brightener or something.

There is only one time I can recall getting more insistent, asking why the person was denying me the pleasure of giving because of pride, of all things. That's all it is. Pride.


Mary, hey, I'd like to send you cookies, too! LOL The only thing with me is that I am very slow.. and by the time you got them, you'd forget where they came from. And that may not be a bad thing in itself. :)


Deb, maybe that is why Katie chose you to be her mother. If that was a lesson you had to learn.. well, the universe has a way of providing the right cirumstances for us to learn them. :)


SM, yes.. it's the culture. Fierce independence and all that.. as if any of us could ever achieve that! The culture teaches that receiving should always be overlain with shame and embarrassment instead of it just being the natural flow of things.

The overstatement by that teacher, I must admit, would have annoyed me.


De, I don't know if that was my post.. but I do believe that. People are always worth making time for. Marketcentric culture teaches that the only valuable use of time is when it produces money or some other renumeration. Giving and receiving from other people is not market-friendly.


QT, exactly! Just the "thanks" part.... :)


G, I have had to receive many times. I realize that when I receive, someone else is only practicing their part of the natural order. My part is to pass it along to someone else, to do the same for others.

Honestly, once I'd gotten rid of some of the cultural rot I picked up where I grew up, I'm perfectly comfortable to smile, say "thank you", mean it and move on.




meno said...

Learning how to graciously accept gifts can be difficult, but it is really important. People who always give but won't take make me uncomfortable and self-conscious, like i have to keep score.

Can't wait to see your new "look".

Tabba said...

I know that I feel so happy to give. And do not expect anything in return. However, if it makes the other person feel better to reciprocate, than I try to respect that too.
The receiving with grace is a hard one. I know I need to work on it.
Great post...thank you for sharing your insights.

MsLittlePea said...

Love the new look Chani!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Chani, you are my guru. I have been thinking about these things, too, as I am one who has always had difficulty in receiving.

It had to do more with not feeling worthy than with keeping score, though. I think I've finally gotten it right, and am surprising comfortable now with the getting part as well as the giving.

Your blog looks gorgeous! Wow! It is so, so beautiful, and perfect for its content. It now matches your exquisite taste in illustrations for your posts.

Dharmashanti said...

I am alive and sober today because of the generosity of strangers. Since then I have given generously to strangers, including giving my right kidney to one.

I have learned to let the generosity of the flow through me freely.


Caro said...

Looking good Chani!

Christine said...

I just wandered back here and i think the new decor is divine! Very pretty!

KGMom said...

One of the values that my parents instilled in me is to do good deeds just for their own sake. I love having a chance to do something for which there is no return, no repayment. Sorry that you had an encounter with someone who assumed that you only did something to get "payment" in return.

KateMV said...

I'm a person who has had a hard time being a receiver. It's often because I feel bad that I have nothing to offer in return. Not financially, but nothing at all (material).

A friend once called me on it, though. She was irritated that I couldn't accept her generosity with grace. Since then I've tried to work on it and our friendship is one of my most important. I'd encourage you not to give up on someone for not being able to take your gift . . . perhaps your response was the one he needed to start reflecting on how he needs to change, like it was for me. It doesn't have to be the end of the relationship.

jen said...

i totally agree. we have so lost the sense of community that we forget to recognize it when offered.

how sad is that?

and how terrific does your new look look? i love it. the gold is money against the black.

Anvilcloud said...

Quite the template. Congratulations!

Some people are like that: my mother for example. She missed out on much by making sure that people didn't take advantage of her. Maybe I should blog about it some day.

KC said...

I love your new blog makeover!

And I completely agree with you on reciprocity- perhaps some don't fully appreciate what it's like to give freely, hence their inability to accept freely.

flutter said...

love the new look!

I think you are quite right, and it's been something that I have always struggled with. Being able to let people give to me without feeling guilty.