Gracious Gratitude

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It is better to give than to receive is a quote I encountered as a child;  I find it is something I have carried within my heart.  Giving takes many forms from helping those less fortunate to giving to those with which we have the closest most intimate relationships.   I think the capacity to give of ourselves selflessly and wholly is somewhat a reflection of our ability to love in the same manner.  Sharing that portion of myself with others is a direct extension of how I care for them. To share a smile is an exchange of a piece of my joy, to cook for those I love is a way to share not only nourishment but a bit of love and comfort, to give a gift or piece of my artwork it to share a memory and to give a compliment is to share the support and appreciation I have for the person. Giving is an essential part of who I am yet I am not sure why I am so challenged to receive. Why when the tables are turned, do I need to consciously remember to accept with the same openness?

I have always had difficulty accepting compliments. I had always thought this was partially because I was always encouraged to push myself. My mother wanted to raise strong independent women who could be self-sufficient. She afforded us praise when we achieved but always expected us to do our best. I thought my reception of a compliment; “thank you but….” was a direct result of that perpetual encouragement to be better. I have been quite surprised to find that many, many women have the same response. It seems that it is easier to minimize the compliment, almost dismiss it than it is to accept it and acknowledge the truth of the praise. I consciously work to say thank you and accept how others see me.

The greatest challenge for me comes from accepting other forms of giving. I am fully aware of the reasons why. My prior relationship had a component of power and control within it where gifts were given with ulterior motive and need was considered weakness. Anything accepted became fodder for a fire or explosion at a future date. I am aware I cannot assess the world based on the actions of one person.

I am learning to accept gifts with the same selflessness with which they are given. I work to practice gracious gratitude every day.  There have been numerous time over the past few years where I realized that the love and support I had put into the world was serendipitously being returned to me. A friend arrived once with dinner at a point when I was very low. It was three meals and a bag of cookies which were delivered with the statement “Food is love and you are loved”.  I have fed so many people in the same manner but never fully grasped the impact of my actions until that moment. Not only did that physically nourish me, but also fed my spirit and reminded me of the importance of kindness.

Last night a friend offered assistance to which  I am grateful they took the time after a long day at work to share their knowledge to take care of something, which saved me both time and money.  Not until I was driving home did I realize the gift went beyond what was fixed, this was the first time I accepted help without being guarded, without doubting the motive; I trusted in the sincerity of the offer. Driving home I found myself a bit teary eyed because I was given a gift so much greater than their time and support. Thank you for strengthening my trust by the selfless sincerity of your gifts.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
― Mother Teresa

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