Friday, June 12, 2015

Thank you.

Gratitude is tough.

I don't like inequality.  I don't like feeling like I am only on the receiving side of a relationship.  I like giving a dollar's work for a dollar's pay (and vice-versa), and I like things being balanced.  It is a good feeling settling old accounts, getting closure on things that have been on my 'to-do' list for too long. 

But I have also been on the receiving end of unequal relationships quite a bit.  I was a graduate student for a long time - and I do mean a LONG time. Grad school means debt, and lots of it. It means a lot of things that are different from my 9-to-5 existence now.
  • It means working part time jobs, because you have to be available for out-of town research opportunities.
  • It means you have to fund that research with grants (which are very competitive) or on the credit card.
  • It means living tight.
  • It means buying used.
  • It means renting. And usually renting in low-income areas.
  • Biking, walking, Ramen noodles, depletion of meager savings... all part of grad school.
And occasionally, it means being on the receiving end of a handout.  From family, or from friends. To do that graciously is an art.  Because gratitude is tough.

A good friend of mine once told me that the hardest part of becoming wealthy (her small company grew from 15 people to an enormous multi-national corporation in a few years) was that she wanted to share the wealth with people she loved.  And her friends saw the money as some sort of indebtedness, rather than as a gift. And since they couldn't reciprocate, the relationship was unequal. They began to accept her invitations less, and included her in on their activities less.  She lost friends because of money.  Just not for the reasons she thought she might.

Hearing that statement was a turning point for me.  So instead of demurring, and declining her offer of the Sony Walkman (yes, I know.  It was a while ago), I turned to her and said "Thank you."

The delight on her face was amazing.

I did not change overnight into a 'receiver'.  I still love being in a position to help or to provide, and I love being able to find the perfect surcee (for the definintion, see my previous blog entry here) and give it for no reason at all.

But that encounter changed my attitude about receiving gifts.  I am now able to recognize the gift for the expression of affection that it is.  And I can appreciate it as such, rather than assuming that it is creating a debt peonage that I can never repay.

So I find my greatest kinship with those who
acknowledge gifts.  I was forced as a kid to write thank you notes, and I hated every blooming minute of it.  My handwriting is awful and painful, and nearly illegible.  But there is something really nice about sending off a note expressing gratitude for a gift.   

Confession: I still struggle with writing the notes. And I am even worse about getting them in the mail.  But with today's technology, simple acknowledgement is easy. Text, email, phone call, Skype, suddenly I have numerous ways of expressing my appreciation for the gesture. Sure, there are times that it HAS to be a note.  But sometimes it is OK to acknowledge a gift by email.  Or, if the giver is a FB aficionado, by posting a picture of the gift.

I find, though, that the acknowledgement of a gift is an essential part of the relationship.  The lovely friend of my mom's who gave me Underoos as a gift (I was 12, and there Was. No. Way.) gave me a gift that she thought would give me joy.  Not acknowledging that gift, misguided though it was, was not kind. Even though the gift was not appropriate - and more than a little embarrassing - it was given with good intentions.

So give it a try.  Is there a surcee you received that went unacknowledged?  A gift that you didn't want?  Or worse, a gift you felt you didn't deserve?

Try looking them in the eye, and saying, "Thank you."

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a couple of notes to write.


1 comment:

aunt Patty said...

Thank you. Look at me while I'm talking to you. Thank you, Crorey.