Giving and receiving are part of the same circle; we can’t have one without the other.
Yet, after we’ve become parents, that circle is often lopsided, with the greater emphasis on the giving side. Somewhere along the line, we seem to forget how to also receive graciously. We’re overwhelmed, tired, frustrated—but when people offer to help, we often brush them aside, saying, “I’m okay.”
My dad, who lives completely on his own, now needs help getting his weekly groceries. Mind you, he can still do all the shopping; he just can’t drive to the store any more. So, I wanted to arrange a schedule where family members came and took him to the store each week.
As expected, his first response was no. He just could pay someone to do this. But I was armed with my giving and receiving speech.
I told him he had given so much throughout his life, yet I couldn’t recall a single time he had ever asked someone else for help. I talked about his lopsided circle when it came to giving and receiving, and how it wasn’t fair to my sisters or me if he didn’t allow us to help him. I knew I had to offer a fresh perspective in order to circumvent his knee-jerk “I can take care of this myself” response.
Guess what? We’ve not only set up a grocery store schedule, but he loves doing it this way! He still gets to do the part that’s fun for him (picking out his own grapefruit, deciding what cookies he wants, etc.), all while enjoying the company of one of his girls during the excursion.
But we don’t have to wait until we’re 94 to open some space to allow others to give to us. However, the first step may be to make it known that, yes, we’d love some help.
That’s especially true if we’re now thinking, “Well, no one ever offers to help me.” Chances are . . . they did a long time ago. But after so many refusals, people do quit asking. Of course, we don’t ever have an expectation that someone should help us.
So, what else gets in the way of receiving graciously? There’s pride (I’m confident and capable) or self-judgment (I should be able to handle this on my own) or just plain habit (I’m used to doing everything myself). Yet, each of these thoughts push others away from helping us, and so our giving and receiving circle remains lopsided.
For kids, receiving is a natural. However, their giving and receiving circle is often tilted heavily on the receiving side.
So how can we balance that? Well, we can encourage our kids to routinely give gifts that require no money. For example, they can give thanks for the rain and sunshine (since we couldn’t live without either!). They can give their time, such as visiting a senior home or even just calling up Grandma or Grandpa to chat. They can give away something they own to someone who may appreciate it more. They can give a smile to someone who is feeling down.
Sharing is also a form of giving, so kids can be encouraged to share a toy or treat, or even share a creative idea that they may have.
In truth, there are endless possibilities when it comes to giving and receiving.
So maybe this upcoming holiday becomes an opportunity to begin balancing our giving and receiving circles if they’re out of whack. For example, if we fall short in the latter category, we now open space for others to help us. If our kids fall short in the former, we now redirect them to adopt more of a giving than receiving mindset.
And when we do so, we discover that the spirit of giving and receiving . . . is truly one and the same.
Nancy Sokol Green
Nancy is an educator who has worked with special needs kids for over 30 years. She has done extensive teacher-training and have written numerous educational programs used nationwide. She is the founder and Executive Director of the Brain Highways program (www.brainhighways.com). This program helps families learn how to organize their brain in order to improve focus, academic performance, social interaction, coordination, anxiety, speech, and more. You can find out more about Nancy or read her blog, The Cortex Parent.