The gifts we long to give

I officially apologize to all of my blog heroes for every time I’ve been disappointed that you haven’t updated the blog in a few days.  Keeping up is a lot harder than it looks!


The other day, I was reflecting on one of my jobs while in highschool.  I worked laundry & housekeeping at a nursing home.  A big part of my job was to bring the patients’ personal laundry into their closets.  After loading up the sweaters, pants, dresses etc. on a big coat rack kind of thing with wheels, I would go through the nursing home and stop at people’s rooms.  After knocking, I’d enter to put away the clothing.


At the beginning I expected that people would have requests for me – maybe to get them a glass of water, or open the window, or get the nurse.  Instead it turned out to be the opposite – pretty much everyone wanted to do something for *me*!  They would save cookies, ask how things were going, want to give me little trinkets, and want to share stories or news.  As I got to know them, a few really stood out as heroes to me. 


One lady was quite young – maybe in her 50’s –  but had rheumatoid arthritis (this really deforms the joints).  She was unable to care for herself, so despite her young age she was in the nursing home.  Instead of being a bitter and angry person, she was always so warm and welcoming.  She seemed to really count her blessings and have many more good days than bad.  She always had a stream of visitors and many cookies to give away too!  Then there was a man who seemed full of life and energy.  He was fast with a wheelchair, often had a joke to tell (often on the warm side), and a kind heart.  Then there was the lady who insisted on loaning me her fur stole for my senior prom.  (I had photos taken in it, but was way too paranoid to bring it to the prom in case it got lost or damaged).  These are just a few of the people I remember.


(As a side note – there were also the bitter & resentful people who only had complaints, and rarely a kind word.  I felt very sad for them.  I noticed that the number of visitors or social interactions with others depended a lot more on the person, than on whether they had kids or not.  Some childfree residents had lots of visitors in the form of nieces, nephews and friends, and some parents never ever had a visit from their kids.  In fact more than one had had their finances messed around by their children, and would have been financially better had they been CF!)


The really striking thing was that people really wanted, perhaps even needed, someone to accept the gifts they wanted to give.  Someone who could value the stories they had to tell, or appreciate the cookies and gifts.  Someone who could recognize that they had value in this world, they had something to contribute – they could still make the world a better place.  I think when we are at a time in our lives when we are working at a job, or creating as an artist, blogging, or otherwise absorbed in something – we are changing the world in our own small way.  We are contributing, and we are important.  Someone is receiving the gifts we need to give to feel that we belong.


I wonder if this is part of the disappointment or anguish we feel when a dream does not come true (or hasn’t come true yet).  Perhaps it is the job we really wanted to expend our energies on, but we weren’t accepted for the education or employment.  Perhaps it is the dream of being a parent, and lavishing our love and nurturing on our child.  We have a gift we are longing to give, and it hasn’t been accepted – or even, has been rejected. 


That’s not to say our talents, energies, and nurturing couldn’t be expended in another way.  We can turn our powers to something else and transform the world differently.  But it’s still not the dream we cherished.


Do you have any thoughts to share about our need to give, and to have someone accept gifts – or our role as accepting gifts from others?


3 thoughts on “The gifts we long to give

  1. I reccommend a book by Henri Nouwen called “Gracias”. It’s hard to find now but you might try or a used book store. (and I am not sure about the spelling of his last name but it’s pronouced “NOW WHEN” It is my favorite book and the central theme is that it is more blessed to recieve than to give for the very reasons you mention. By receiving gifts from people we place value on them as persons and what they have to offer.
    Thanks for a great post!

  2. kittyquilt says:

    I love hearing about people like that- who have been through a lot and have plenty of reasons to complain, but instead choose to find the joy in life and try to share that joy with others. It’s a good reminder for me to try to do that (at least a good part of the time) even on my journey through infertility-hell.
    I like your thought about people having a need to give to feel like they have value and *belong*. I think, for me at least, one of the major “losses” of infertility is just that- wanting to be a mom, wanting to give all the love and care, wanting to nurture someone else and be so directly responsible for their well-being and happiness. Wanting to give all that and not being able to, at least not in the way we want to, is huge.

  3. masha says:

    I have been enjoying reading your posts so far, what a nice blog you have!

    I really liked this post. What you say about people needing to be able to give is very true. It is something I remember my mother saying – that sometimes the most generous thing you can do is to allow someone else to give you something, or do something for you.

    I’m not sure if everyone is like this, but I have a very deep need to help others. As you say, it helps me feel needed and part of a community. Some people dont seem to have this need, and some dont know how to express it.

    I once attended a talk by a National Geographic photographer. He showed us photographs he took in a maximum security prison in the USA. Because of space shortage, they had to put the very old and terminally ill prisoners in the same cells as the hard core serious offenders. And what happened? These young men who were in for murder, rape and all types of terrible crimes started looking after the old prisoners. They washed them, and walked them around the room for a little exercise, and kept them company – very caring and gentle. It was a really remarkable story.

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