Writer, author, memoir teacher. I write about the connections we find by giving each other the time and space to be heard.

Give and Take

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My neighbor is a terrific cat sitter. The first time we went away, I brought her back a little souvenir, some soap or candy, I forget what. She was so upset, waving her hands and shaking her head, saying she didn’t want “payment,” that I felt like apologizing for insulting her.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” is a popular quote from the New Testament. But can we take that to extremes, taking away the giver’s joy by not receiving well?

When this same neighbor got sick, I brought her a carton of soup from a nearby Italian deli. I might have known, when I caught a cold, she would come to my door with a carton of soup twice the size of mine plus fresh rolls. This winter, she was sick again. Not wanting to compete for the title of most generous neighbor, I brought over the original size soup. The next day, she sent her husband over with a tin of Italian cookies. Each Christmas, she rings our doorbell and offers a bottle of wine and a box of fine chocolates, says Merry Christmas and runs away waving her hands. A day or two later, so as not to appear to be paying her back, we deliver cookies or some other small treat, and she tells us it was not necessary. Which of course, it wasn’t. We’re just trying to be as nice as she. And it feels like we’re losing.

All this to say, her giving annoys me no end, which is a clue she’s manifesting something I don’t like about myself.

Once a friend asked me why I didn’t hug her back. I hadn’t realized I had been standing with my arms weakly around her. Another friend said she had to concentrate to receive a hug, because she wasn’t used to feeling loved. Hmmm. I have plenty of love in my life, but suspect my childhood taught me not to see it. I want to change that.

Why is it so hard for us to receive? When my neighbor keeps trying to top me with her gifts, I feel pushed. So, I’m going to practice letting her be the way she is. When she brings our recycling bucket back from the curb, along with all the others in the neighborhood, I won’t try to stop her, or beat her to it. I’ll just say thank you.

What about you? Is it hard to receive a gift or good deed from someone without immediately “giving back?” Do you believe we need to repay the good we receive from others?

Comment on this blog and I’ll put your name in the drawing next month for a copy of  Kate Atkinson’s novel, Transcription,  set in the World War II offices of the BBC, and full of intrigue and second guessing.                        

The winner of last month’s drawing is mystery writer and blogger Sandra Carey Cody Take a look at her website for some good reading. She wins The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. Congratulations, Sandy, and thanks for commenting on my blog.

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