A Gift Given is a Gift Received

Just this evening I was having a conversation with a friend. For some reason I mentioned that when I was a child my mother would sometimes take me to the homes of her elderly friends and relatives, some relatives more distantly related than others. One thing that seemed a consistent theme with these country folks was the idea that since we were kind enough to come visit them they wanted to give us something in return.
Most of these folks would be considered poor and “backwoods” by today’s standards. Several still lived in the homes they had owned for many, many years never giving a thought to the idea they were missing out by not remodeling. Some of their homes smelled sharply of coal soot and others of mellow hardwood smoke from the heating stoves they used in the winter. The items offered as keepsakes might have been just a pretty dollar store dish, a homemade doily, a bag of garden produce or a houseplant. Nothing large was offered as most of what they owned of any consequence was necessary for their own existence.
I was about 10 years old when we visited with Miss Ella, an elderly friend who later lived to be 103. During this visit I received a cactus plant and a tour of her antebellum family home. She even had a little clay jug her grandfather used to carry milk to school before the War Between the States broke out. On a trip to see my Great Aunt Bess I was given an old (now antique) plaster of Paris pig figurine that was once a prize received at a county fair. Bess was the older half-sister to my grandmother and was oddly superstitious concerning things like black cats, broken mirrors and how to ward off “bad luck”. My Uncle Gene was an alcoholic and had virtually nothing of his own. He would save fascinating rocks and fossils he would find as he plowed Grandma’s garden. He would put them up for months at a time just so he could give them to me because he knew I enjoyed them. My Aunt Billie has given me assorted handmade treasures over the years and always sent me home with something when I came to spend time with her daughter. When I was a young adult I went to visit my Great Aunt Della who had moved to New Mexico. She blessed me with a creamer that has a hand painted dessert scene. A friend had painted it and given it to her. Della wished to share the joy of giving. Oh, lest I forget, my Great Aunt Bess (the same one who gave me the pig) once came around the little stucco house where she rented a couple of rooms carrying a tiny white rooster she called “Toppy”. She insisted that I take him because she lived in town and said “I’s afraid a dog will get him and if I give him to my young’uns they’d eat him!” Of course Mom allowed me to take him home to become one of our flock.
I will never forget the meals that were always offered and almost always accepted. We did not want to appear “too good” to eat what had been prepared. One Sunday we went to visit one of Mom’s cousins and his wife. Before we could mention that we had just stopped by for a brief “hello”, Bonnie was in the backyard, already had the hen killed and plucked to put on a pot of dumplings. I remember the smell of fresh killed chicken, the thick layer of bright yellow fat that covered the whole top of the pot of broth and the fluffy, tender drop dumplings that melted in our mouths. In the homes of other folks meals were garden vegetables and meat from the smoke house. Sometimes it was beans and cornbread and maybe turnip greens. Every meal was as wholesome as the atmosphere it was prepared in. Thankfulness abounded.
These experiences and many others beginning in my childhood have taught me several valuable life principles. I feel the most important lesson has been that giving is a blessing. The reaction toward our gift tells us much about the person to whom the gift is offered. This reaction whether of grace or awkwardness reveals who is comfortable with us and who treasures what they are given. We have all heard “It is more blessed to give than it is to receive”. Since people get blessed by giving something away, I have also learned not to deny others that blessing. If something is offered to me out of love I have no right to deny the giver the blessing of seeing me receive that token with thanksgiving. Remembering the delight in the eyes of these humble folks is still a strong and endearing part of the memories I have of them. Birthdays and Christmas were simple times with simple gifts. The joy of having visitors who make a special trip to see you was a time for celebration.
Through the kindness of these wonderful people I have learned never to give away things that are not valuable to me. A heart of love gives the best one has. It picks the apples off the tree to give away, not the windfall and the wormy. It gives the item of affection to the object of one’s love. A heart of love looks around and sees through the eyes of others so one can give gifts of lasting value. I have realized that what these folks knew about giving was once a thing of common knowledge. The culture we are immersed in today has lost this emphasis on selflessness and thanksgiving. Our focus is skewed. Our everyday joy is, for the most part, a thing of the past. We have forgotten that a Heart of Love gave Heaven’s best. A Heart of Love gave the object of His affection. A Heart of Love gave the Gift of eternal value. With a heart of love one must receive this Gift with humility and thanksgiving. We must share this Gift with others to be blessed and be a blessing. Have a Blessed Thanksgiving….