Lately I’ve been pondering the matter of giving and receiving — not only just the exchange of material gifts, but also the giving and receiving of help and encouragement of all kinds.
One night during a stay in the hospital a few months ago, I pressed the call button to summon a nurse. I believe I wanted something to ease pain. Not wanting to treat the nurses like servants, I had tried to wait until one of them came into my room, but finally gave in and called.
I apologized to the nurse who answered the bell for “being a nuisance.” He said, “How many times have you heard someone say that it is better to give than to receive?” I admitted to having heard it frequently. Then he explained that by asking for help I had given him a special blessing and that when I tried to tough it out without asking for help I was denying someone a blessing.
Sometimes I find it a little (or maybe more than a little) humiliating when I have to get help, especially for things I probably should be able to do for myself. Since I was widowed five years ago, my friends often are asked to rescue an old woman in distress. Fortunately, I have many friends who nearly always are willing to answer the call. I feel very grateful for the blessing of good friends, but also a little embarrassed to impose upon them. Often I do not even need to ask; they simply see my need and fill it.
There have been two outstanding examples of this kind of generosity from friends in the past week. After all the recent rains, my grass had become too tall for my mower to handle easily. Two friends who were mowing the church yard across the street from me observed my struggles to restart the mower when it clogged up and stalled.
When they finished the church mowing, they came over and finished my yard for me. Now when I mow, if anything is not within reach of the mower, it can just stay there. These perfectionists used a weedeater liberally, and my yard has not looked this good in years. In fact, another friend phoned me just to say how great my yard looked.
A few days later, when I brought my computer home from the “computer hospital,” I asked two friends to come and hook it up for me. (I’m of the generation which find computers a vast, insolvable mystery.) After installing the computer, they spent a few hours cleaning my trashy house.
In both these instances I recognized service far, far beyond the call of duty. I will never be able to repay them and numerous other friends who have helped with chores too numerous to mention.
However, I have finally quit being concerned about my inability to repay. I do not believe that is the way goodness works.
Ideally, we all do what we can for others. Sometimes you will be on the giving end and others on the receiving end. Since my resources are quite limited in both material wealth and talents, I am not often equipped to be much help to others. However, on occasions when I have been able to give in small ways I have truly found it a blessing.
Jesus said, “When you have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.” Therefore my friends had the privilege of mowing Jesus’s yard and cleaning His kitchen. How could I have given them more than that.
Random acts of kindness such as that can cost time, effort, and sometimes money. However, many such acts are simple and easy. We never know for sure how much they do for the recipient.
Not long ago as I was leaving a local eating place, I passed a young man in a booth. He met my eyes and gave me a small smile. I smiled back, and I hope the day was brighter for both of us. I know it was for me.
Even if you cannot do much about feeding the hungry or caring for the helpless, you can at least smile, say hello, and maybe offer a word of encouragement. That may be more valuable than you will ever know. Mother Teresa said, “We can do no great things; we can only do small things with great love.”
It may well be more blessed to give than to receive, but we need to learn to be grateful and gracious receivers, as well as giving whatever we can.