For many of us who have already won the lottery of life (see last month’s blog), it is more difficult to receive than to give. We expect to give, and we do. We give to our favorite charities, to politicians, to disaster relief funds, to our children. Giving is a part of the wealthy and celebrity way of life. Just think of Oprah’s audience surprises – a trip to Australia! And in 2006 Warren Buffett, the world’s second-richest man, donated 85% of his fortune to the Bill Gates Foundation.
The size of the gift doesn’t matter. The lavishness of the rich is balanced by the gift of the widow in the New Testament whose generosity was praised because she gave all that she had, her last two mites, to the temple. I was impressed with Precious Ramotswe’s idea in Alexander McCall’s Smith No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency’s series that if you have a job, you should hire someone to clean your house because you can afford it. It shares the wealth. It keeps money circulating. It’s fulfilling to share our blessings.
Receiving is just as important as giving. I bet we all have generous friends who won’t accept a gift. Refusing a gift doesn’t much harm the intended recipient, but it surely affects the giver because it keeps her from experiencing the benefit of generosity. It also keeps her goods from being put into circulation and benefiting society as a whole.
When we refuse to receive, we’re saying, “There is nothing you can give me that I could want or use. I have everything I need. I have so much I won’t take anything from you.” Or even, “I have more than you.” When we don’t accept a gift, we stop the flow of giving and receiving, and we rebuff the potential giver. We make the giver feel small and insignificant.
When we accept a gift, we allow the giver to feel abundant. We allow the giver to participate in something bigger than herself. I remember how proud I was the first time I bought a mother’s day gift for my mom with my own money. It was a pin that encircled the word “Mother” in gold. It cost 50 cents. I felt so grown up giving it to her. Giving allows the giver to participate in the flow of life. Giving feels good. Giving says, “I am abundant. I have more than enough, and I want to give some of it to you.”
When we receive a gift, we allow the giver to feel abundance; we participate in the circulation of money, time, goods, kindness. Do something good for someone today – receive their gift.