Yesterday, a co-worker of mine and I were chatting about her daughter's decision to attend the same local college where my friend and her husband met. My friend's in-laws are making a significant contribution to her daughter's tuition funds and are even offering to give her a regular allowance to help with incidentals. My friend and her daughter are hesitant to accept the offer of the allowance due to the grandmother's way of manipulating them through gifts. My friend and her daughter fear that by accepting the allowance that the daughter will be expected to visit the grandparents on a regular basis rather than enjoy the independence that comes with being a college freshman.
Hearing my friend tell me this story reminded me of the times over the past several years where I have been blessed by the help of my friends and family. I have to admit that there were instances where the help came with strings attached and as much as I appreciated the much-needed assistance, I resented the feeling like I then had to listen to my uncle lecture me about what I should or should not have done in respect to my finances and life choices. I felt like by accepting his help I was selling out my dignity. On the other hand, I have also had a dear friend loan me a large sum of money and make me feel like it was his pleasure to do so. He actually made me feel lifted, like he was making an investment in a winner by loaning me the money. What a huge difference in giving! I love my uncle and feel so grateful for his help, but I felt like I had taken on another load, another burden of being shamed for being in need. My friend gave with grace. He gave with no lectures, no unsolicited advice. My friend just gave.
This experience has taught me how I need to give. Not to act like a martyr and give begrudgingly out of some sense of duty or obligation, but because I truly WANT to give. It is as much of a gift to myself as it is to the person I am giving to.
I recently e-mailed my friend how much I appreciated his generosity and support, and that I was getting back on my feet soon and would start paying him back first thing. He kindly said to me that it was fine and that I gave him too much credit. He said that is what you do when you love someone and to remember that I am an amazing person who just needed a little help during a rough patch. Needless to say, I was sobbing by the time I read his inspiring email response to me.
In 2013, I plan to honor my gracious friend by giving in his style. I will give with all my heart and take joy in it. Happy giving, guys!