The holiday season brings with it many suggestions and ideas on how to best help our children understand the concept of giving to others and sharing with those less fortunate.
I remember well the tears of gratitude a struggling single mom shared with me upon opening a Target gift card I gave her.
It wasn’t much, but to her it was everything, for now she could buy a few small treasures for her children. Last year, all she could afford to offer them were words of hope that next Christmas would be better.
Knowing I helped ease her burden, even in this small way, filled my heart with joy.
When we give to those who truly are in need, we experience incredible gratification—a feeling like no other, it’s palpable. The reality is we receive when we give; it’s a win/win situation.
But what about the other side of the giving coin—receiving?
For me, it took decades to learn how to receive a gift with grace, without suspicion there were strings or some hidden agenda attached to it.
Jaded? Most definitely.
Those of us who have suffered at the merciless hands of abuse, depression, mental illness, PTSD, chronic pain and myriad other disorders sometimes develop an impenetrable shield of distrust.
Our survival instincts, honed from years of total self-reliance, makes us wary of even the most genuine gestures of kindness. Trusting others is a weakness we can’t afford. Disappointment and manipulation (often by those closest to us) have taught us to keep our shields up.
We are the givers.
We will give whatever we have until we have no more. It’s genuine, true and straight from our heart, but ask us to receive and it’s “shields up.”
There are those of us unable to receive no matter how the gift is presented—no matter how pure of heart or well-intentioned the person offering it is. We are the ones you’ll hear saying, “No, no, please I don’t need a thing, honestly,” as we slowly back away from the gift you may have spent weeks deciding on, the gift you knew would be just right for us.
We want the gift, we know you put your heart and soul and much of your incredibly busy time into deciding on something personal and not just some generic gift meant for “anybody.”
We just don’t know how to accept it.
We know you love us, we know your intentions are nothing other than kindness and the longing to see that sparkle of happiness in our eyes as we pull the red and green tissue paper back to unveil your generosity. However, we feel unworthy of that gift, of that time you spent just on us.
So, during this season of giving, remember those who want to be included, want to be on the other side of giving—the receiving end—but perhaps need a bit more time to believe in ourselves and you.
Give a little nudge and try once more, letting us know it’s okay to open it later if we seem awkwardly reluctant. We’re just overwhelmed.
We are humbled and we are grateful. We’re also scared.
Know we love you. We realize you deserve to see the sparkle in our eyes as we gaze upon your gift, and trust me, one day, when we’re ready, you will. We’ll open that gift along with a big part of ourselves we’ve kept hidden from you. Not only have we opened your present; we’ve also opened a door for you to step through.
Come in, it’s really quite lovely inside our hearts.
Along with your present, take great pride in knowing you have given us the ultimate gift—you’ve made us feel worthy to receive. You’ll finally see the happiness in our eyes and feel the incredible joy one receives when giving to another. If you’re still wondering about that shield, don’t.
It’s impossible to open a gift with a shield in your hands.
Author: Mary McLaurine
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Danielle Marroquin/Unsplash