Quote of the Week – Week 28

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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.

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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.

Ouch.

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. 

It’s all about giving…

During December, the Compassion bloggers have been asked to talk about giving and what it means to us.

A couple of weeks ago, my Dad was in town for the day doing some networking and asked me to join him and some friends/colleagues in the evening. They were all a little bit tipsy, and at the end of the night, my Dad, his colleague and myself walked down to Waverley station and past the building of the Edinburgh Christmas markets. I don’t know how we got on the subject but somehow we got on the topic of Christmas 2005, which I found out that my Dad and his colleague had talked about the week before as I started reminiscing about the story. “Oh, your Dad was telling me about that just a few days ago because he said that was the best Christmas he ever had, because he got to spend it with all his children

You see, from age 5 I never spent Christmas Day with my Dad. Even after he and my mother separated, he was always invited to see us on Christmas Day but he chose not to when I turned 5.

Christmas and birthdays were always done twice. Once on the day with my Mum, and once another day with my Dad. Boxing Day was always my Christmas with him – Santa always knew to leave some of my presents there. Clever Santa.

In the summer of 2005,  I ended up living at my Dad’s home, and it was a brilliant summer. My sister and I (and I hope our brother too) have great memories from that summer. Koalas arrived at Edinburgh Zoo that year, and my family thought all the signs ‘to me’ were hilarious. It was the first summer I had Cassie the Corsa, my best friend was getting married at the end of it, we threw a surprise birthday for our Dad who turned 50, we had so many trips to the cinema, the zoo, to watch football games, we shopped, I only worked part-time. And it was at the end of the summer when I had to go back to university that my sister and stepmother started pestering me to spend Christmas Day with them. I said No at first. And then my stepmother and I decided we would surprise them.

It meant at least a month (if not more) of taking A LOT of slack and guilt trips from my sister and my Dad, while I was acting like I wasn’t coming.

On Christmas Eve, I kept the tradition of going to church with my Mum at Midnight, and afterward I drove to my Dad’s house, arriving past 1 a.m. when my sister and brother were asleep. My Dad had drunk a couple of glasses of champagne that night and was in a state of shock when I walked through the front door. After some hugs, I went to bed, ready for my younger siblings to discover me the next morning.

That’s when we discovered how unobservant they are.

They did not wake up for ages. Eventually I went to the bathroom on purpose knowing my en suite bathroom shares a wall with my sister’s bedroom, thinking she’d for sure hearing the toilet flushing.

She didn’t get the hint.

Eventually my brother was ordered to take my stocking and put it on my bed. He wouldn’t do it at first because he was still pouting that I wasn’t going to spend Christmas Day ‘so what was the point?’ (huff, puff, sigh) and when he finally did, he ran in, dumped the stocking on the bed and failed to notice I was in it. I know I’m not that big, but seriously?

As a last resort, my step mum started yelling ‘Look, look it’s been snowing‘.

Uh…no it hasn’t‘ replied the giraffe and monkey who were focused on wanting to empty their stockings.

No seriously…go and look out the Giraffe’s window‘ (ie the window with the best view of my car)

What are you talking about?‘ they yelled.

Do you not see anything in the driveway?

Insert more loud exasperated huffing, puffing and sighing from the Giraffe & Monkey…

It was then that I think the Monkey finally clocked my car. ‘CASSIE!!!!!!’ (yes, all my family refer to my car as ‘Cassie’ not ‘Laura Anne’s car’) and it was then that they both shouted ‘Is Laura HERE?‘ and decided finally to take a better look in my room.

At this point I decided to hide under the duvet to make a very obvious lump in the middle of the bed and got jumped on by my sister and brother with shouts of ‘KOALA!!!!’ and after the hugs were over I admonished them for their total lack of observation. And we all laughed about it.

That Christmas was tough for me, because as much fun as it was to surprise them, I also know that my Mum was very hurt that I wasn’t spending Christmas with her. It was the only time I’ve not in 28 Christmases I’ve spent on this earth.

But I really had no idea until the other week just how much it had meant to my Dad – that he looks on that as the best Christmas ever.

And that’s when I realised that out of all the gifts I have given, the best one I apparently gave wasn’t one that cost me money…it cost me my time and my presence. 

Maybe it’s something we want to think about as we enter this season of feeling obligated to give material things, is there a way of giving that would mean much more to people that just simply buying something for them?