Last week I celebrated my birthday. I had all the usual birthday type traditions – family and friends, cake, ice cream and presents. I was the center of attention, opening envelopes and tearing open wrapped boxes. As I paused to make a wish before blowing out the candles, I thought about how uncomfortable it can be to be the center of attention. I thought about how much easier it is to be the giver than the receiver. I reminded myself of the message I delivered at First Parish Church in Taunton at the Flower Communion in 2011.
Flower Communion is a wonderful service originated by Norbert Capek, the founder of the Unitarian Church in Czechoslovakia. During the service, each member of the congregation places a cut flower in a communal vase. At the end of the service, each person takes a flower home with them.
That is another story.
It is often said, “Tis better to give than to receive.” It’s true that we are often more comfortable giving than being the one given to. But, where would the givers be without anyone to do the receiving.
In my message entitled “The Other Half of Giving”, I asked,
Why are we so uncomfortable with receiving? Why do we not value accepting as much as we value giving? Maybe it has to do with how we picture people who give and people who receive. We have a bad habit of thinking about giving and receiving as about “us” and “them.” Giving is considered a noble act. We associate it with words like charitable and generous. We see taking and receiving as more about being needy or dependent or indebted.
In preparing for the service, I read a quote from Shakti Gawain at http://www.livinglifefully.com “receiving and giving…are like inhaling and exhaling. If you can’t inhale, soon you will have nothing to exhale.”
After reading the children’s book, “The Giving Tree” I concluded that giving and not receiving is the path to becoming an old stump. Giving and receiving is the path to gratitude and that is a very good place to be. We can’t be grateful if we don’t embrace receiving.
Back to my birthday. In the moment before I blew out the candles, I looked up and saw how happy everyone was. All these happy givers. I remembered what a wonderful feeling it is to give to someone else – giving a gift or giving praise or giving encouragement. In a way, by being a grateful receiver, I am also giving a gift – the gift of that wonderful, happy, warm feeling we get when we see how happy we have made someone by giving to them.
I wished that I would have many more birthdays, filled with family, friends, cake, ice cream and presents. That I would be a grateful receiver and allow others to be happy givers.
Then I blew out the candles. Then we ate cake. And I had the first piece.