Give and let give

In our modern society, despite the impressions of folks from other parts of the world to the contrary (and sometimes rightfully so), we Americans are pretty well trained to be modest, at least when it comes to accepting gifts. We are supposed to do nice things for other people, but it is sometimes difficult to let people do nice things for us. Either we are embarrassed, or feel like we need to repay the favor, or we question a person’s motives for their kindness. Either way, we are blocking the flow of energy. When we give, we feel good, but when we receive, we feel sometimes feel guilty or like we are taking advantage of someone. “It’s better to give than to receive,” they say, but how can one thing happen without the other?

We had dinner at the Outback Steakhouse tonight. Our server recognized us from previous visits and seemed so happy to see us. I guess when you spread a little sunshine, people remember it, and we’ve achieved near-celebrity status at a few places that we frequent. Apparently Outback Steakhouse is one of those places!

Our server was excited to tell us about new things on the menu, and everything we selected was confirmed by enthusiastic praise. The first reaction is like I said before: a little embarrassment from the attention, and a little cynicism, wondering why she was being so nice – almost too nice!

We placed our order, and she brought out our salads – one of my favorites: a blue cheese and pecan chopped salad. When I finished, our server took my plate, and I paid a humorous compliment by saying that it “tasted almost like some more” – an expression I picked up from an old friend many years ago. Next thing you know, she is bearing gifts for us: a carry-out bag with two salads, and extra bread to take home! Now the embarrassment is raised to the next level, and we are really wondering what kind of tip she is expecting out of us.

We got our entrees, and she kept telling us how much she enjoys the items we ordered and what good choices we made. I thought about it and realized that tonight isn’t unusual. There was another time we ate there, and she wasn’t even our server, and she acted the same way. I think our smiles and our cheerfulness were shining with such a bright light that she couldn’t help but notice and respond in kind. She was giving to us, because we were giving to her, and we didn’t even realize it.

So what is my point after all this rambling? Don’t be afraid to give of yourself, and more importantly, don’t be afraid to receive when someone is giving to you. If you aren’t willing to receive, you are denying someone the opportunity to give. Do you have to respond in kind when someone gives to you? I think we do that automatically when we show sincere gratitude for a kind gesture. It doesn’t mean we necessarily need to go out and buy a gift in return, though sometimes, that’s nice, too. Our true present is our presence – being there for the person, and allowing them to be there for you.

Do I believe that it is better to give than to receive? It depends on the motive, but in general, I think they are fair equals, because one depends so strongly on the other.

Give freely, receive cheerfully, and keep the loving energy in motion always.