A friend of mine told me yesterday about a book that I can’t wait to read, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life. In short, it’s one woman’s story of healing through giving. She started by giving away 29 things in 29 days; one day it was a smile, another a Kleenex. At least one thing had to be something she’d never thought she’d be able to live without.
What strikes me the most about this idea isn’t as much the spirit of giving, but rather, the spirit of receiving. More specifically, it occurs to me that the ability to truly receive a gift is to first be able to recognize it.
It’s not always as obvious as something wrapped and delivered on a designated holiday. Sometimes, it really is as simple as a smile, as thoughtful as a Kleenex. For me, it’s also when a busy friend offers to read my works-in-progress in lieu of doing something else. Or when a colleague sends me an email to say how much she appreciates the work I did on a project. It’s when someone leaves a comment and lets me know that something I’ve written has had an impact. It’s when a friend offers to keep my kids for a few hours so I can work. Or when someone special thanks me—beautifully—as someone recently did, for simply being in the world. There is no material gift as significant to me as gestures such as these.
Like the question of whether a tree falling in an audience-free forest makes a sound, I wonder if the givers of these sacrifices of time or energy even realize what gifts they are. Maybe it’s only when the receiver recognizes them as such are they elevated to something greater than simply sacrifice.
”Blessed are those who give without remembering. And blessed are those who take without forgetting.” ~Bernard Meltzer