How often during the holiday season do you hear some variation of the cliche that it’s better to give than to receive? Though a lovely sentiment that I agree with wholeheartedly, it seems to me that too often people are excellent givers yet have a harder time being gracious recipients.
It may seem odd to discuss the proper way to accept a present, but in my experience this means just as much to the spirit of Christmas as giving. After all, giving the perfect gift doesn’t mean anything if you offend other gift-givers by being indifferent or disapproving of their efforts.
Too often I see people unwrapping presents that were meticulously selected, arranged and decorated, then reacting with a less-than-grateful attitude. This embarrasses the one giving the gift and dampens the mood overall.
I remember one year at Christmas, I was giving to my younger sister. She was only about 6 and I was only about 10, but I had decided to make her the best, prettiest Barbie house she had ever seen. I spent weeks on it, fixing up all of our old dolls to be perfect inhabitants of the home. Finally, as it was unveiled, she said the worst words I could have ever heard: “I like Polly Pockets now. Not Barbies.”
Kudos to her for being honest, but what I needed her to understand then was all of the work and love that had gone into my gift — not necessarily the actual substance of the gift.
Naturally, most adults are more tactful than a 6-year-old and less sensitive than a 10-year-old, but rejection and dismissal of any kind still hurts.
Of course, understanding the worth of every present given and having the decency to at least act pleased are only parts of receiving gifts well. Another aspect of the problem is those who hardly allow themselves to accept kindness, period.
In many cases, allowing others to serve you is just as important as serving others. Especially during the holiday season, it is important to remember that the kind things people do are not with any intent of having the favor returned. In fact, serving during the holidays is as much for the benefit of the giver as it is the recipient. It feels good to help people out, lift others up and aid in brightening the day of another. Feeling as though any sort of gift of time, service or resources is wasted on someone who not only will not use it but feels guilty over it ruins the mood of an otherwise thoughtful gift.
On the other hand, many people feel that they become charity cases by accepting generosity, or that others serving them is a mark of their inferiority. Honestly, though, that could not be further from the truth. No person is at the same stage of life, and no person will remain in the same stage of life forever. Sometimes there are years or months that are difficult emotionally, financially or otherwise. The greatest benefit of the difference in circumstances is that while some are struggling in one way, others are able to help carry the load. Hopefully, those benefited by these acts of charity will eventually return the favor.
Besides, jumping to the conclusion that those serving are doing so out of pity is rash and oftentimes incorrect. More often than not, kind people extend kindness to all those they love, regardless of circumstance. In any case, accepting this kindness takes a great deal of humility and, rather than being pitiable in any way, is honorable.
My family will attest that of all of the kids in my family, I am by far the biggest drama queen. Like everything else, I have always had trouble reading too much into what people do — especially when trying to help me out. I always have the initial tendency to complicate every sentiment. I struggle with being too prideful to accept kindness in any form — verbal or monetary — graciously. However, watching the reactions of those around me has taught me that it’s a crucial lesson to learn.
The holiday season is not one of handouts, as opposed to what some may think. It is not about pity. The holiday season should be one of paying it forward — receiving gifts graciously, and in return, giving of whatever we have.
Siera Gomez is a senior at Stansbury High School.