I love giving gifts. I’ve decided that the favourite gift giving I’ve done this year, was getting tickets for me, my Mum, Vicky, Ruth and Miss S for the London Eye so we’d see the sunset over London. So much fun, and in a way quite selfish, because it seemed so romantic, and I loved having people to share that experience with.
However, learning the art of gracious acceptance has been tough.
My learning really began 6 years ago, when I came to Edinburgh. When I arrived off that plane from Australia, I entered this city with no permanent job, no place to live. As the year went on, I was suddenly given a £800 council tax bill, £1,500 bathroom repair bill and went to the brink of my student overdraft. The next year Cassie the Corsa’s speedometer broke as well (along with a few other things…she was most certainly a ‘Friday afternoon car’). There was the time (or two) that I didn’t get paid from work on time because the charity had no funds to pay me. There was South Africa. There was the day my laptop screen stopped working and I was told it would be pointless to pay the £400 to fix it.
There was the silly humiliations of going to a church in an affluent area, and realising you couldn’t afford to socialise in the same way as they did. Sometimes they offered to pay for my meal so I could come have lunch with them, but I was often to full of pride to accept such an offer. ‘I’m nae a charity case’ ; ‘I’d just feel bad, because I’d never be able to return the favour‘; ‘I’m sorry I can’t accept it when I can’t pay you back‘ are the sort of responses I’d give.
Eventually it was two friends, who built up trust with me, that challenged me on my prideful ways. They often gave me random gifts, especially when I was living in a draughty flat and trying to pay off my debts (and fund a trip to South Africa) – a starbucks gift card so I could go get a caramel hot chocolate and read a book. A postcard. Home baking. But sometimes they gave me large gifts that I struggled with. A cheque to help cover car repairs. A new laptop.
I confessed to them my discomfort. They told me that I needed to learn to accept gifts, because to not, was to deny someone else the gift of giving.
And I knew what they meant, because I love giving gifts. For sure, I don’t earn much on British terms (shown by the fact I currently live in my mother & stepfather’s attic conversion, my phone is a pay-as-you-go ‘vintage’ nokia and no longer have a car), but I love to do it when I can. Whether it’s paying for the meal, or a cinema ticket. Sometimes it’s just being able to babysit or make a batch of cupcakes for people to enjoy. I get so much pleasure out of sharing things with people. It sounds cliche, but it’s true.
I would have been really hurt if my friends had refused to come on the London Eye with me just because I’d paid for the tickets!
I can’t say I’m all there yet, but I do know I”m better. After all, the laptop I’m currently typing this on, was an extremely generous gift from my friends. I totally dread the day this laptop dies, because this one (like the last one) has sentimental value to it.
Plus, none of my friends are my friends because of material wealth. They are my friends because they are honest with me and allow me time in their company, experiencing things together. Sometimes that can be things that cost us money (like going to see Matilda) and sometimes that can be watching an NCIS finale together or sitting in the park for ‘free’!
So let us find the joy in giving, and work on graciously accepting so we can help others find the joy too.