Every year at around this time, the advertising starts to remind us that the holidays are closing in. For some, that is a delight. To others, it is a cause for panic.
Givers and Getters
Most of us know from our own experience that holiday shoppers can be lumped into two grossly generalized groups: those who are worried about what they're going to give and those who are worried about what they're going to get. In a sense, it's not all that different in the larger circle of life. There are "givers" and there are "getters."
Over the years, it has been my observation that many of the "getters" are not all that worried about getting. Not really. They're anticipating and expecting, but not fretful or truly anxious. The fact that they are expecting gifts in one sense precludes a certain anxiety and presumes a certain amount of happy narcissism.
The givers on the other hand truly fret. They make lists. They change them. They review gifts they've given in the past lest they buy something similar. They start out with one gift per person and wind up with three or four or more. They love to give. And they love to see people respond to them with love and appreciation.
'Tis the Season To Be Given
However, since it is the season of giving, there is a de facto twist for these givers--it is also the season of receiving. If one gives, then another must receive. And for givers that is not as easy as it sounds. They love to give, but it is an entirely different affair when they are on the receiving end.
A Story of Two Givers
A while back a friend of mine who is a devout, loyal and generous man was helping me out with my garden. I had asked for his advice as a botanist in selecting specimen plantings and laying them out properly. Because he is so generous, advice became a day of drawing things out on graph paper, making lists of shrubs and perennials, and finding a wholesale nursery we could work with. That soon turned into his physical help in buying the material, loading and unloading the truck, turning over rock-filled beds, digging the holes and tamping down dozens and dozens of plants.
I stated to him clearly at the beginning of the process that if his "help" ever evolved into anything more than a few opinions that I felt strongly that he should be paid for his time. (At one time he had been a professional landscaper). I reminded him on the drive to the nursery that I appreciated his help and asked him to think about his fee. He laughingly dismissed me. I said it a second time while we were unloading the plants. He laughed again.
Finally, I offered him an envelope and we proceeded to hand it back and forth like a flu in the first grade until I put it in his shirt pocket and said, "If God wants us all to give in His name how can I give if you won't receive?"
How to Receive with Love
The truth at the time is that neither he nor I were very good receivers. I stood as firmly in the givers camp as he did, which made giving to one another absurdly difficult. However, according to behavioral psychologists and anthropologists, it is a supremely important social impulse and there are more than a few good reasons to give:
it increases the bond between us and the person to whom we have given;
it generally increases our feelings of competence;
it helps keep us aware of our place in the Divine scheme and cognizant of the fact that we can have a positive impact on the lives of others;
it keeps us grateful -- if we have enough to give, then we're not so bad off;