Friday, May 15, 2009

Giving versus receiving

The advantage to giving over receiving is not so much its being socially 'better' but the way it is emotionally better. When you give something away you're not having it yourself, which is kind of a drag. Compensation: a good feeling to carry around with you - one that you can't buy in any store or even make with your hands. It only comes from knowing you've helped somebody else.

I quite like giving and do it whenever possible, especially when it doesn't involve much work; I find it amazing how so little from me, when well-timed and appropriately directed, can mean so much to somebody else. It's like the days following a funeral, when people start showing up with food because they want to help and none of them know offhand how to bring the dead back to life and a good meal is at least something. I still remember all these years later some Italian friends showing up with dry pasta and some sauce - not even home made - and insisting on cooking it. Minimal effort. Huge impact. Delicious, too.

Still... even though you know you're sort of giving when you receive, because the giver is getting that good feeling, it's hard to accept help. It's hard to accept even that you need help. That's probably why I offer help so much more than I take it. And it's probably why it's such a nice surprise, when somebody shows up with a fresh-from-the-oven quiche and a salad when supper is so far from your mind it isn't likely to have happened at all, to find it feels pretty darned great to say Thank you! and accept not only the material goods, but the love that came with them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is such good stuff. I think about it a lot, because.. well I do, and I've found that the important thing is keeping the two in balance. I know a ton of people who are great at giving, kind, generous *to a fault* and indeed, there is a fault: namely that a lot of them can't receive very well. But that too is - or can be - its own paradoxical kind of giving. It can take generosity and trust to open yourself up to someone else's giving, and put yourself in a position of relative vulnerability, and give them the opportunity to be the giver. It can upset a balance of power that some givers are unknowingly thriving on. Of course, there are also many, many people who are only good at taking, and we all know enough of them to exercise our unilateral giving on if we choose! And then, there's random giving that loops around through strangers in positive, life-enhancing paths of surprise.