It doesn’t seem so long ago that I had a much different attitude towards giving and receiving than I do now. I never much liked the idea of receiving a good deed or gesture from somebody else. I’m sure part of the reason why this is so is because I always felt there was some kind of security blanket around my felt needs. Sure, I didn’t have everything I wanted, but I had all the essentials; food, clothing, transportation, and the ability to treat others, be they in need or just for fun.
But it was deeper than that. There was a time I scoffed at the idea that a close friend might buy me a cup of coffee. “You’re not paying for me!” It was a dismissal. No chance. Don’t even think about buying me a coffee. It didn’t reflect well on me to be sure, but I was committed to it.
One day, one such close friend offered to do something for me. I can’t recall now what it was, but it was the sort of good deed I typically rebuffed, and I was true to form. However, I wasn’t prepared for his response:
“Why won’t you let me bless you?”
Oh. I had no defence.
It was as if I raised my finger and opened my mouth in order to give a justification for my position, but the words had deserted me. It was a startling revelation that it’s not all about me, not least of all when it comes to giving and receiving. Bible readers may recall a passage in the book of Acts, when Paul quotes Jesus in saying that “it is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). To be sure, there are amazing blessings that come with giving to others. What we can so often forget when considering this truth however, is that if we only give and never allow our friends and neighbours to give back, we are indeed robbing them of that same blessing.
Since that encounter, my view of giving and receiving changed dramatically. Sure, there was the “counter-fear” I had to deal with. What if I came across as being too eager to accept gifts or good deeds from others? What if people think I’m a freeloader? It’s been a risk I’ve been willing to take.
This has been important to life in general but also to my work in Parkdale. The Dale Ministries actively pursues a life together in which we are all a part, and all are invited into relationships of giving and receiving. This is often what love looks like.
This past week I went out to lunch with a friend in Parkdale. In my two years in the neighbourhood, we have cultivated a very close friendship. As we neared the end of our meal, he looked at me and said, “This is my treat. I’m taking care of lunch for the both of us.”
“Thank you,” I said.
*Photo used with permission. My friend, Elias.