Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Givers v. Takers

There are people in life who are givers.  And there are those who are takers.  That's a little simplistic, but it's true, no?  Humans tend to be one or the other.

We all know people who thrill us with unexpected things--flowers or emails or baubles.  Things that made them think of you.  Things for no reason.  Things for a reason.  Things that are fancy, things that are cheap.  Either way, it makes the heart leap a little.  It is something to be thought of, to be gifted with something--big or small.

And then there are those who take the most expensive thing on the menu or have an extra cocktail or two, yet insist on not troubling the table to do anything but split the bill.  There are those who surely read the lengthy missive you sent, advising them about a city or giving them business advice, yet must be too busy enjoying their holiday or starting their business to craft a response--even one so simple as "thank you."  Or those who hang out repeatedly, doling out the witty banter without doling out so much as a centime for the wine they must assume mitotically keeps your cabinets full.

Worse perhaps are "givers" who expect things in return, even if they don't admit it to themselves.  These are people who tally all the tits to make sure they get their tats.  But there's also a worrying and waste of energy involved in giving something to someone and then waiting to see how he or she will "repay" you.  A true gift is free, the only expectation is the let-go.  Because if you give something in expectation of the glory you will get in return, well, then you deserve to be let down.

I am a reformed taker, and a reforming tit-for-tat-er (despite having the most wonderfully generous parents as examples).  I am learning that it can feel better to give something away, even if there's a risk the person you give it to won't treasure it as much as you would or as you would hope or expect of him/her.  It's weird because I am a treasurer (a hoarder, of sorts), who keeps everything, probably because most all of my things are special to me and have stories behind them (even if it's just that I got it on major sale--who doesn't like that story?).  Things are more special when they were given to me by someone dear--or even better when made by that person.  And because I treasure these things so, I should be especially thrilled at the idea of giving things to other people--because I know how dear these things, too, could become.  But yet there is still a small pull, a little nag that makes me wonder if *I'm* not the best appreciator of one thing or another... so much so that it makes me want to keep it for myself.  It's like I am looking out for the best interests of the thing itself.  What?  It's a damn thing.  It doesn't care.

I think of times I was really down (after a surgery) and my friends sent me something so lovely and thoughtful and I cried because I felt so cared for and thought of.  Or when, after the same surgery, friends of my mom's stopped by and brought me little things to cheer me up, and these things got me out of bed to say "thank you" and enjoy some much needed company.  Or when I sent out a desperate email for some advice or a Skype session that was promptly attended to;  those responses saved me.  Or I think of times when I didn't realize I was a little down (like recently) and, lo, there's a package on its way from the States.  Or when I was just excited to have someone here for the weekend, but then she showed up with luscious treats (and flowers like BOOM!) that I never would have splurged on for myself.  Or when someone squirreled away things from the States (even if they were crazy things like a giant candy thermometer and deodorant) in her nearly overweight suitcase (OK, it was way more than just these two things) for me without a complaint.  Or when someone spotted me when my credit card was refused, even if it was for a pair of fancy shoes.  Or when someone not only drew or painted something special, but had it framed, too.  Or when someone had photos made because she knew I missed seeing all of the action firsthand.  Or when someone booked a last-minute jaunt to my hometown (in the midst of locust swarms) so we could catch up for a couple of days before I had to go back to Europe.  And these things, some of which are in my drawers or around my neck or on my walls or in my wardrobe and some of which have expired, they are all still with me.  These moments of receipt, they are all part of me.

I am writing all of this today because the package finally came.  The package that was supposed to show up a couple of weeks ago, the package that DHL told me was likely going to be returned to sender, back across the ocean.  And just then, when I thought it was gone, it showed up.  And I was overwhelmed at what a thoughtful and sweet friend I have.  Like most all of my friends, she is pretty incredible.  This one, she is a giver.  Perhaps the ultimate giver.  If there were a competition of thoughtful and giving people, I'm pretty sure my girl would take it, she's that good.  Many of my other friends also know her, and I'm certain that if I entered her in this made-up competition, they'd have their money behind her, too.  She's also one of the goofiest, smartest, good-at-her-job (and not at all a snotty fashion lady, though she certainly talks and walks it), passionate, and caring people I know.  If I could give you one thing right now, it would be to have a friend like her.  But you know what?  This one's mine.  And I'm gonna be stingy about it.

I guess I'm still learning about giving, after all.