The Gift of Receiving

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There’s a Hokkien proverb: Han tsi, hey oh. Literal meaning: Camote, return with gabi. Someone gives you sweet potato, you give them taro.

Tis the season of giving gifts. Many are busy buying, wrapping and sending gifts. But just as busy are those receiving them. How to consume them? Where to store them, especially food so they won’t spoil, chiller or freezer? Too much food? What about gifts not suitable or useful? What to do with them? And bottom line, somehow I’m compelled to give because I receive.

And so, I discovered the gift of receiving: to accept graciously whatever is given to me. This requires that I do not have a sense of superiority – feeling that I am better or that I can afford to give more than the giver. It also means that I do not need to feel a sense of being indebted to the giver. I give the giver the pleasure to give me things, to serve me, to do things for me.

I know my children are happy when I let them serve me or buy me gifts. I accept gifts of my helpers when they bring food after they return from their vacation. I use the gifts that missionary pastors give me with gladness. More than that, I am not shy to ask for help (gifts) from my friends when I need it. This year, another a new normal in gift-giving. I asked a friend what she wants to receive from what I have – to share the food that I cannot consume quickly.

It brings to mind what Paul taught the Galatians: Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (6:2)

In Joni Eareckson’s words, it is ‘interdependent.’ “As a quadriplegic of 47 years, I have been on the receiving end of other people’s help for many years. My caregivers and my husband are experts in giving, even when it hurts, and they are bone-tired. Part of me feels guilty about that. But God designed my disability not to make me “independent,” but “interdependent.” And as the recipient of my husband’s love, I do all I can to support him and my caregivers with gratitude, as well as pray for them in their weariness. It’s the least I can do. It’s the family thing to do.”

Gilbert Meilaender wrote in an article for First Things, “Families would not have the significance they do for us if they did not, in fact, give us claim upon each other. We do not come together as autonomous individuals freely contracting with each other. We simply find ourselves thrown together and asked to share the burdens of life while learning to care for each other.”

Yes, it is more blessed to give than to receive… but it is also possible to give in receiving – to give others the pleasure of giving is a gift much appreciated as well.

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