“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”―Maya Angelou
I interact with a wide range of people on a daily basis at my job, and I’ve noticed the tendency of people to shy away from receiving a gift without giving something in return. Sure that’s how stores work, you decide you want something and then have to give money as your form of payment. But its not just when I’m working that I’ve noticed this. I know people who, when offered something, will decline even if they want it because they don’t want to inconvenience the other person (that was me at one time in my life). The following story is just one example of the many times I’ve wanted to give and someone hesitated to receive.
A woman came by asking about a piece of wood from the rainforest called Palo Santo, I taught her what I know about it and by the time I finished explaining, she was enthusiastic about trying it. So she looked at me with the wood in her hand, handed it over to me and said, “I’ll take this one.” We walked over to the back so that I could check her out, and then she asked, “Do you take apple pay?”
“No we only take cash or card,” I responded apologetically. I suggested for her to send it to me personally through apple pay and I would leave the cash. So she excitedly looked for her phone, and realized she left it with her sister (who had walked away from the store). So she went looking for her sister.
While she was gone I began thinking to myself that it would be nice to just give it to her. It’d be easier than having her send it to me, it’s not expensive, and I thought she’d enjoy using it more if she had received it as a gift. Moments later she walked up to me and dissappointedly said, “I can’t find her.”
I responded, “Here you can have it.”
She looked at me in disbelief as if I had told her secrets to the universe that no one on earth has ever heard, and said “No I can’t.”
As I said “Just take it, you can have it, and pay it forward,” her sister walked up to us.
“Here she is, I’ll pay you!”
“No I already said you can have it, so here,” and I handed it over to her.
Now her sister was looking at me in shock and said, “No she can pay you!”
I insisted and she finally accepted and reached out to give me a hug. The look of pure gratitude filled her eyes, and she thanked me whole-heartedly. She walked away and that moment was over, but the joy that I was filled with in that moment lingered throughout the rest of the night.
This is not the first time that I’ve encountered someone recoiling at the thought of receiving a gift with no strings attached. I’ve seen a child of seven or eight, who hardly knows anything about money, hesitate to receive a crystal that she really wanted as a gift (her dad refused to buy it). This was the same, she understood that it was kind. She walked up to me, hugged me and everyone around felt uplifted to watch this interaction. The upliftment was not just a product of witnessing the giving– it was also about witnessing the gratitude that emanated from this child.
Why do we assume that things and money can cause more joy than seeing somebody grateful for that gift? Why have so many people been raised to believe that it’s more acceptable to “humbly” decline the things that they desire–as if it were virtuous to pinch ourselves off from a blessing?
We should be teaching our children that the act of giving does not require reciprocation. The joy comes from the giving itself. This doesn’t mean that we need to be giving more than what we have, or giving when we don’t feel like it. This means that if an opportunity presents itself, if you see that there’s a moment where you feel inspired to give someone something, to offer help, or to do an act of kindness– then do it. A gift that is coming from your heart will never expect something back, not even a response. When I give I don’t expect people to give me hugs or even to appreciate the gift, but it absolutely brings mutual joy when your unconditional gift is received with deep gratitude. The next time someone offers you something, or gives you something, pay attention to what goes on inside. Do you feel worthy of that gift? Open yourself to receive, your joy is your gift back.