The Art of Giving and Receiving
Every year, my boyfriend Doug decorates our house with Christmas lights. It’s not quite the over-the-top caliber of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but it is amazing display. Doug has enjoyed doing Christmas lights for years. He uses a special computer program that coordinates music and dancing lights. The music is projected through a small speaker so you can hear the display if you’re in front of it, but he also uses an FM tuner so you can hear the music should you decide to stay in your car to watch. Over the years of doing this, Doug has programmed 90 minutes of music for the lights to “dance” to. Each minute of music takes about 4 hours to program.
The past 3 years, our little home in St Pete became "The Gingerbread House" in December. We decided to cash out of the home in October, and used the money to purchase a vacant lot where we will eventually build our future home. In the meantime, we are living in a condo. As you can imagine, the condo association doesn’t allow people to climb on the roof to affix a musical Christmas tree with dancing icicle lights. After a little discussion, Doug and I came up with the idea to turn the vacant lot into a winter wonderland. We haven’t begun construction yet, so why not have fun with the land in the meantime?
Last week, he bought several bales of hay, created a golf cart path and then began laying out our inflatables and lights. Another couple in the neighborhood, just so happened to have 10 Christmas inflatables and loaned them to the display since their lot isn’t large enough. They were thrilled to have a place where they and others can enjoy ALL of them. Another couple in the neighborhood contributed a light up fox and moose, and another lady has already reached out to add her Christmas squirrel to the display which we’ll incorporate within a day or two.
Doug felt he needed a “house” to complete the display, so he built a frame work house. The icicle lights now had a roof and then he hung our Frosty wreath on the door. 5 days later…the winter wonderland with a golf cart path is ready to go!
We purchased another unit in the condo association, unit R-2. I’ve loved Star Wars since I was a little girl, so we’ve been turning that unit into a Star Wars themed condo. We just so happened to find 2 holiday Star Wars inflatables of R2-D2, which we put in the windows of the condo.
A week ago, we had a vacant lot, and now, we have fun sprinkled throughout the neighborhood.
One of our neighbors pulled us aside last weekend and asked, perhaps a little suspiciously, “All those lights…what’s the end game? Why do you do this? Is it for money? Are you promoting yourselves, your business, your religion?”
I was kind of taken aback, if not blown away by the question.
“Nope. We do it because it’s fun. It makes us happy, it makes others happy, and frankly, we just like shiny, blingy sh*t.”
She was not expecting that answer, and laughed, shaking her head in disbelief.
Her question got me thinking about how much our society has become jaded. We are so used to things coming with “strings attached,” it feels weird and awkward when we are given an opportunity to enjoy something freely.
We have been taught all kinds of conflicting beliefs about “accepting” and “refusing” gifts. You might recognize a few of these...
…if it’s free, it must not be of value.
…if it’s free, there must be a catch.
…if I accept this now, I’ll be expected “to have to pay it back” later.
…if I accept this gift, I’m no better than some thief or a free-loader.
…if I refuse this gift, I’ll hurt someone’s feelings.
…if I refuse this gift, I’ll appear ungrateful.
And then there's the cousin to these beliefs, that "You owe me so I'm taking it," which is a whole other issue.
You can still accept gifts graciously, refuse gifts politely, and still be true to yourself.
When being offered or given something you like or want, it's okay to accept a gift! Simply say “Thank you. I appreciate you and this gift.” When being offered or given something you don’t like or want, you can simply accept it and say “Thank you,” and then dispose or re-gift it later. When being offered or given something you don’t like or want, simply say “I appreciate this so much, however, I _____(reason you can’t accept)________. Do not be bullied into taking a gift you don't want. If this does happen, do not feel bad regifting or dropping the unwanted gift at a charity on your way home. You should only surround yourself with things that bring your joy. If a gift brings you shame, guilt, or anger - it does not belong in your house. If you are given a "gift" out of spite, take a moment to consider the mindset of the person who could buy you such a gift. Mentally send them a gift of peace and love, because obviously they are lacking both.
Now, you can't accept something unless it's given to you, so here's a few tips for you givers:
To prevent “giving” accidents and unwanted giving, be sure to do your research ahead of time! Find out what kinds of gifts the recipient is open to receiving. You can always find clues by paying attention to the surroundings in their house, or just asking. When in doubt? Go with a gift card and a personalized note on why you gave them that gift card.
When you’re giving something to someone else, remember the joy is in the act of giving (or for those of you who make gifts, the joy is in the making). Expecting a gift of equal or greater value to be given to you only invites heartache, so do not give something to those who do not reciprocate...even if "they're family." If you’ve given something to someone else and you don’t see it in their house the next time, don’t get upset. People can be overwhelmed with “stuff” and only have so much space in their homes. They have a right to choose which items stay in their home. If your item didn’t make the cut, make a note of it, and adjust your gift giving accordingly. When you’re giving something to someone else and they refuse, honor their reasons for refusal. No need to take offense and get upset. Acknowledge and appreciate the honesty, and find joy in re-giving that gift to someone else who will appreciate it.
Giving and accepting are intertwined, and form a flow of human interaction. Allow the flow of giving and receiving, experience the pleasure that comes from being thoughtful as well as thought of, and relish in the appreciation.