Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Gift Is A Gift

A gift is a gift.  Can there be any more direct statement?  And yet, for most of us, it is among the hardest statements to grasp or to believe.

CASE IN POINT:  Last night, I met some friends for a beer.  When I arrived, the bar was raffling off “swag” of various types, all, as I realized later, related to Sierra Nevada beer.  I didn’t realize it at first.  So, when I sat down and the waiter asked what I wanted, I asked a friend what he was having, and he said, “A Sierra Nevada blah-blah-blah.”  So I looked up at the board and ordered a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  (I am not a beer snob and am easily influenced by others’ choices).

When the beer came, I also got a ticket.  A ticket for the raffle.  My friend across the table had a ticket, too.  I thought everyone at the table had a raffle ticket, but I was wrong.  You had to buy a Sierra Nevada.

The next time the raffle came around, I won a nice, green Sierra Nevada t-shirt.  I’ll wear it.  Kind of made the night a little cooler—buy a beer, get a shirt.

Some other friends came in.  They saw the shirt, heard about the raffle.  Some of them got a Sierra Nevada and some didn’t.  I got another beer.  Same thing.  I got another raffle ticket.  The big prize was still out there—a six pack of various beers.  My friend sitting across from me doesn’t like beer; he likes cider.  So I gave him my ticket.

You can guess what eventually happened.  When the last raffle of the night came around, for the six pack of beer, my second raffle ticket, which I had given away, won the sixer.  He was excited; he had said in advance that he wanted to give it to his wife.

But when he got back to the table after accepting his gift, he said to me, “I can’t keep this.  It’s yours.”

“Take it,” I said.  “Keep it.”

Later on, he said, “Let me buy you a beer in exchange for it.”

I said, “It’s a gift.  I don’t want anything in return.”

I have another friend for whom it is almost impossible to do anything at all.  In his head is a tally sheet, and on that sheet, he always thinks that he comes up short, so he can never accept anything gratis.  I can’t buy him lunch.  I can’t pay for anything.  It is very frustrating.

To be fair, I like to live quite often in the world of quid pro quo (you do for me, and I’ll do for you), especially when I am dealing with students who need to work through their own sense of entitlement.

But far more important to me is the world of hospitality, the world of gift-giving.  A gift requires nothing in return.  If it does, then it is not a gift.  I remember one Christmas where the other writer of this blog gave me a cool t-shirt as a Christmas gift.  I did not give him anything.  Neither he nor I have given each other a Christmas gift since.  It was just a moment, a confluence of events where he was purchasing some cool shirts and he got one for me. 

That is a gift.  It comes out of nowhere, perhaps, when it is the best kind of gift.  It originates in an unplanned, random thought, being in a place where we see something that we know that someone we know might enjoy.  And so we get and then give that gift.  But how hard it is for us to accept without us attaching some strings to it!


Anonymous said...

Spot on! And glad to find another post!! Missed the writing...

troutking said...

I think you've nailed the hard part about this: sometimes there should be accounting and sometimes there shouldn't. No rules. Just right.