Three Ways of Looking at a Gift

(Despite the image, this is not a political post.)

1. Business Heart

From the Sept. 24 Business Heart eZine, a business newsletter I recommend:

A client told me he didn’t want to receive a gift from his son, because he couldn’t help thinking of him standing on his feet all day working at a minimum wage job to pay for the gift. I asked the client to go into his heart and ask to be shown a larger truth.

When he did, what he saw shook him to his core. He saw in his heart that by allowing his son to work to give him a gift, his son was stepping into adulthood, that it was an important piece of growing up into responsibility.

(Yes, Business Heart is kind of mushy and New Age-y. But it’s also given me at least one profound business insight I used to better market myself. And I love the idea of a business that teaches you how to make money, be nice and help people. Call me crazy.)

2. Mowing the Yard

I am still catching up from an emergency last week in which I had to start an article over after working on it all week. I learned all kinds of Very Important Journalism Lessons and filed an acceptable article on deadline. But I also lost time I needed for a class presentation, a five-page poli sci take-home exam, the current week’s killer investigative article, vacuuming, dusting, mowing, watering and trimming hedges. (When you schedule your life with little free time, and then you lose time, you get bad behind, fast.)

I posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew somebody who would mow my yard for thirty bucks.

I got one taker: An unemployed friend who said she would come by and do it for no pay.

I don’t even know this person that well, though I like her and want to know her better. Embarrassed and feeling lazy, I tried to think of ways to politely reject her gift.

Then I thought of the example from Business Heart, about accepting a gift. Why was I rejecting help from someone who had time to help, when I needed help badly? If I don’t mow the yard this weekend (and I won’t have time to), that makes three weeks without a mow. That’s not just a cosmetic problem, that’s grass so thick it takes longer to mow and makes a huge mess that I won’t have time to clean up until October.

Blogapalooza is this weekend. I’ve got a test next week.

I won’t go insane if my yard doesn’t get mowed, but I will have much more peace of mind, avoid much future work and even damage to the grass, and have more time to attend to other things that really need doing. So many other things! (Like MAKING MONEY since I hardly worked last week or this week!)

Would it kill me to say yes to a small gift of one hour of a friend’s time?

I said yes.

Beka is coming over tomorrow at ten and despite being booked up for a week and worried about keeping my lawn nice, I am going to have a nice mowed yard before lunchtime.

I think I will make a $30 donation to the charity of my friend’s choice.

3. Dr. S’s Bumpersticker

I emailed a bunch of people recently offering free Obama stickers I got cheap from a friend (50 cents each!). I arranged to give one to one of my professors, an out-of-the-closet Obama supporter even in his classroom.

He politely insisted he would pay me for it. He said he would take two instead of the one he wanted so he could give me a dollar for them. I said no, to please just take my gift.

I brought the sticker to him last night. He took it and I could tell from the way he accepted it he’d forgotten I was bringing it. I got an email from him today offering belated thanks — and offering to pay me for it.

We are in a Chip ‘n’ Dale cage match of iron-fisted cultural and personal politeness (American South vs. Southeast Asia) over fifty cents. (I told him we were being like Chip and Dale and he thought I said we were being like Chippendales, which is awesome.)

It’s arguable that I am myself being unreasonable in rejecting the (politely offered) vast sum of 50 cents. But can’t he just accept my small gift in the spirit in which it was given? I am a poor college student, as no doubt he too remembers being. But I can spare fifty cents. And I wish he would let me do so.

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