‘Tis Better to Receive: A New Perspective on Giving

December 19, 2017

“Do you have to potty?”, my mother asked me one last time before bundling me up to head outside into the snow. I shook my head, “no”. She looked at me with concern, but with the expression of a parent who was trying not to worry.  It was Christmas Eve and the second year in a row that tonsillitis had decided that the holiday was going to be spent at the doctor’s office instead of waiting eagerly for Santa Claus. Mom and I stood huddled by the front door, as the sunlight danced between the snowflakes.

“Beep, beep”. In the midst of my fever, the sound of our friend Alene’s station wagon was more welcome than sleigh-bells or prancing reindeer. “Thank you so much for picking us up. Bill is still trying to get some errands run before the rest of the family arrives and I don’t know what else to do.” Mom told her as she clicked me into the carseat.

Alene smiled. “I am so happy you called me. I can’t think of a better way to spend a holiday morning than helping a friend.” She turned to me, “I’ve heard you’re under the weather, dear.” I nodded quietly back at her, without offering my usual boisterous chatter. Mom and I couldn’t have asked for a more loyal companion and chauffeur. Alene and her husband, Quintin were fixtures in our family – lending their love and assistance whenever needed. With their help, my mother could hold her head high as “differently abled”. It would be years before I would come to understand the full effect of the pediatric brain tumor that had impacted Mom.

“We might be a while,” my mom said as we arrived at the pediatrician’s office. “I’ll drop you off here in front of the door, so you don’t have to carry Mary across the parking lot, then I am coming to wait with you inside.” There would be no arguing with Alene. She insisted of waiting with us, taking us to the pharmacy, and tucking me into the bed – complete with a holiday story.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the holiday. Sickness and bad timing would keep me from the party that night. But I still keep the memory of our friend and her kindness close to my heart all this time later. It was the greatest gift we received for Christmas that year, though I am certain she would tell you that the joy was all hers.

We’ve all heard “’tis better to give than to receive”, but if tonsillitis taught me anything it is that giving and receiving aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. Alene had the ability to show care to a four-year-old, to give comfort to an anxious mother, and had the station wagon and story-telling skills to help them. It made her feel valued, trusted, and content to use those abilities to make our holiday brighter.

No matter where you find yourself this Season, remember that there is a season for everything. There is a time to give; there is a time to receive. There is a time to love; there is a time to be loved. Whether you identify more closely with a busy father, a worried mother, a sick child, or a friend simply providing comfort to a family in need, we have all been where you are.

The holidays remind us of our shared humanity. They remind us that there is just as much happiness to be found in asking for help as giving it. The ability to be vulnerable, to reach out to others, and to humble ourselves and get out of our own way allows our loved ones to shine. So often, we forget how eagerly they have been awaiting to share their gifts with the world.

My tonsils were removed the following March. When the procedure was over, Dad was waiting with balloons. Mom had orange creamsicles waiting in the freezer. And Alene and Quintin were waiting a fresh batch of homemade chicken divan.

I can think of no greater gift.

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