Giving and Receiving

a pear from the gift box I received

Our Christmas shopping, baking, entertaining and giving lists are shorter this year out of economic necessity. We’re still going to trim the tree—my project this week—but I’m also trimming some of my other “traditional” activities, like printing and mailing 50+ Christmas cards and baking and giving 30+ loaves of pulla, to conserve resources and focus the priority of our celebration close to home.

Downsizing seemed manageable until I received my first Christmas card and the reality of not sending my own greeting sunk into my heart. That’s a tough feeling for a natural nurturer who responds to needs by trying to fulfill them. But what do you do when the resources of time, money or opportunity to give are limited?

We all want to give, no matter what our circumstances, but someone also needs to receive. I’ve learned that the capacity to receive is also a gift, one that costs nothing but is sometimes just as expensive. From this new place, I offer my tips for both—those who are on the receiving end of the gifts, service and help and those who want to give, serve and help in a beneficial way.

To Those On the Receiving End

Allow others to give to you and serve you. A man at our church shared this advice from his father, “Service is not about the people being served; it’s about those who are giving the service. There will come a time when people need to serve you and you may not need it, but let them serve.”

Learn from the lesson in humility. Giving and receiving isn’t always reciprocal sharing with the same person at the same time, and this often puts the recipient in an uncomfortable, awkward and humble position. If you are the recipient, those feelings are real but they do not diminish who you are and your potential to thrive. They can, however, serve as a reminder of our real source of growth and development.

Give thanks and gratitude for all gifts offered, even those you cannot accept. Most givers have good intentions. They want to give to make us happy or they serve to be of help to us.  They may not always know how to help and may offer gifts that don’t meet our needs, but when we assume that gifts are given with good intentions, we can return sincere expression of thanks and gratitude.

To Those Who Desire to Give

Don’t be afraid to ask. In our desire to give surprise gifts, we may assume what a person needs or wants. While it is nice to think that we know others so well that we can size our gift to fit, our gift may have more benefit if we make general choices and then ask about the specifics so we can get it right.

Many of the best gifts are intangible. A listening ear, prayer and faith-filled friendship are hard to buy at the store and present to anyone, but when we give these seemingly passive gifts, we are giving a lot more than we think. And when you verbally express these gifts to the recipient, it allows both the giver and the receiver to open the conversation in a more genuine way.

Small gifts often count more than a windfall. My mother sent us home from Thanksgiving with a box of apples, oranges and pears. These small gifts didn’t take away my need to go to the grocery store when we got back from a weekend trip, but it postponed the need to go back the day we returned and filled a need I would have written on my shopping list.

In my experience true gifts of love and compassion don’t try to solve my problems but make them bearable. They give me hope that adds that extra lift to my life and makes it easier to get through another day knowing that I am loved.


  1. An Ordinary Mom
    Dec 4, 2009

    This post hits really close to home. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips. It is sometimes hard to be on the receiving end, especially when it seems like you have been there too long, but the Lord knows what is best for all of His children.

  2. Rebecca
    Dec 7, 2009

    What a beautiful post, especially for this time of year.

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