Open to Gifts


two hands upheld, as if accepting a gift


Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help” and “those who need help.” The truth is that we are both. – Brené Brown, from The Gifts of Imperfection

This year has not been the best of years. I think most would agree, even though most of us agreeing on something is pretty rare these days. But during this year of dis-ease and isolation, I learned a thing or two. Selfishly, these were lessons about me. These were lessons I had to learn about myself in order to be a better person to and for those in my sphere. I learned that at 63 years old I could still be a learner. That in itself was a big lesson – opening myself up to all sorts of prospects for learning more.

I learned to lean into the pause before responding or reacting. I also learned to be open to gifts from others, and from the universe. When offered something – help, money, a present – why has my first reaction always been, “No, thank you,” or “That’s ok, I’m fine,” or “Oh, that’s very kind of you, but please don’t go to that trouble, expense, (fill in the blank),” or “That’s way too generous of you! I can’t possibly accept it.”

So much effort applied to barring something good from my life!

Here is what I learned about denying “gifts”:

First, I was being rude – horribly rude! This person who was offering me a gift wanted me to receive it. They were hoping I would take it. It made them feel good to give me that present or go out of their way to help me. They were expressing their love or compassion for me. And how did I return that sweet gift? I shut them down. I denied them that feeling of generosity. I, quite frankly, slapped that person in the face, by rejecting their kindness. How callous and ridiculously short-sighted of me!

Second, I denied myself the benefits of their generosity. I cut off – more than likely – the chance of that person ever bestowing that offer, or a different kind of gift again. The result was I left that potentially positive exchange empty-handed.

Third, I was shutting windows and closing doors on the universe. I genuinely believe this now. Not being open to gifts was telling the world that I don’t want or need anything, so keep those gifts to yourself. It meant I was closing my eyes and heart to those small, subtle treasures from the universe, like a green light or a free parking space when I’m running late; more money in my savings account than I recalled having; a sweet catch-up email from a childhood friend; a new published book from a favorite author; an uncommon sighting of a hummingbird visiting our feeder; an original idea for a blog. Why would I consciously nullify such possibilities and opportunities?

Fourth, I was saying that somehow I was better than the gift giver. “No! I am the noble one who is generous and helpful. I am the benevolent gift giver! It can’t be both of us!” I forgot, or did not figure into the equation, that I, myself, loved that feeling of giving generously, or offering help to someone else.

If only I could get those gifts I refused back. If only I could have been unselfishly grateful.

I cannot erase or relive the past. But maybe I can, at 63 years old, learn this hard life lesson and be open to gifts from people and the universe. As Lindsay Pera, founder of the Modern Mystic Institute says, “Yes, thank you, and more please!” Perhaps I can begin by accepting this gift of a lesson from myself.

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  1. This was important for me to read. Thank you.

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