Besides saying your usual thank you and please, my mother taught me several other important lessons when I was growing up, but the one that stands out the most, perhaps because I always thought it was so exaggerated, was giving. In our house giving was certainly a must, never a luxury.
I was scolded for offering people things. I was told if one truly wants to give, one goes ahead and gives, without asking. So, if you came to my house while we were having lunch and you weren’t hungry because you’d just eaten, you’d either have to eat again, just to be polite, or you would have to refuse the plate of food that I’d place in front of you without asking, because I certainly wouldn’t risk getting ‘the look’ for asking you whether you wanted to eat or not.
This lesson of giving started when I was young and I was taught to share my toys, always giving the best toy to the other and making do with the less best. It progressed into my young adulthood, when I was taught to give more precious things, like clothes, jewellery, accessories, etc. Now you understand why I thought this lesson was a bit exaggerated. By this time of course, I had internalized and embraced what my mother taught me. I no longer needed her persistent prompting, because I had finally learned that indeed, it is more gratifying to give than to receive. That smile and bliss on someone’s face just after you have given them the unexpected – your best – is very priceless. It is certainly a rush I can no longer live without!
I’ll always treasure my mother for teaching me this valuable lesson of giving, but I have to admit, when the lesson came from my Father, it came with a twist. Suddenly, giving wasn’t that easy. Giving material things is without a doubt no hassle, once you get the hang of it. Many times, sooner rather than later, you always receive something in return, and normally you receive something better. The kind of giving my Father taught me is the giving that builds relationships – giving of yourself!
When it comes to relationships, our tendency is to assume that those around us owe us. We assume they owe us their understanding, their patience, their forgiveness, their support and we give very little thought about what we put into relationships. My friend ought to understand that I am tired; she can’t expect me to call her after such a long day at work. My husband should know that I am not made of steel, I can’t engage in a conversation right now, I have too much to do around the house after coming home from work. How can my boss expect me to forgive her for treating me the way she did in front of other colleagues? She’s planted and soon she’ll reap!
This is the time of the year when many people are going around, looking for gifts for their loved ones. I would like to challenge you to consider giving other kinds of gifts. Do not only give material gifts during this festive season, but gifts that will last forever, gifts that will build. This time, give your forgiveness, even when it’s not deserved, give your time, even when you are too tired to make sense of what’s going on around. Give your understanding when someone pushes you to the limit; give your patience when they test it. Give them your honesty, even when it will hurt. This time, give yourself. Go out of your way to please others rather than expect them to please you. It will cost you; you will need to get past yourself. But, when you do, you will be blessed for it, so hold nothing back. Expect nothing, give everything!