I really enjoy the giving part of this season. Giving gifts in general, actually. It makes me super happy to see something I know one of my family members or friends will love and get it for them just because I know they’ll love it. Sometimes it gets to the point where I’m so excited because I’ve found the PERFECT gift, and I want to call them and yell, “GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW AND OPEN THIS BECAUSE YOU’LL LOVE IT AND IT’S SO GREAT!!”
So yeah. Giving, I can do.
It’s receiving that’s the hard part.
I think we all know the warm peaceful feeling that comes from giving of ourselves to someone who needs our help and is so grateful that they don’t know how they can ever repay us. Sometimes—especially when you tend to be the “strong, independent woman” type—it ’s much harder to be the one who needs the help. And yet, receiving is as essential a part of the equation as giving is.
I think young single adults are particularly susceptible to the idea that we’re on our own and don’t (or shouldn’t) need help from others. When I graduated from college earlier this year and landed my first “grownup job” (with my own insurance and everything!) I think I subconsciously felt that I had ARRIVED—I was on my own now, and didn’t/shouldn’t need help from anyone, thank you very much. I was subsequently frustrated that I couldn’t seem to put my life together after three whole weeks in a new city, with a new job, new ward, new apartment, new everything.
Turns out, grownups need help too. I was recently called to repentance on this subject when I stumbled across a talk given by Kent Jackson at a BYU devotional. Professor Jackson says,
I have found that the philosophy of self-sufficiency…runs deep in many Latter-day Saints. Some think, “I don’t need any help. I can take care of myself, and everybody else should do the same.” This idea forms the basis of the political and social feelings of many, and it has caused not a few Latter-day Saints to not only miss blessings in life but also to misunderstand the nature of the gospel.
It is our ability to receive that enables us to give more freely.
Professor Jackson goes on to explain that we all need God and must learn to receive His grace—“service freely rendered,” where Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ do for us what we cannot do for ourselves—and that grace often comes in the form of help from other people.
Dealing with my mother’s passing from cancer two years ago continues to be difficult for me. Some days the grief wells up and I can’t hold it in anymore. A year ago, the day before my mother’s birthday in October, I was sitting in the BYU library at a computer, heart aching, throat tightening. The girl next to me, seemingly oblivious to my emotional state, cheerfully struck up a conversation. She said her name was Courtney. I can’t remember what she asked me, but I ended up telling her that my mom had passed away and it was her birthday the next day, and I started to cry.
Courtney, a complete stranger, reached over and took my hand and cried with me.
That day, Courtney was the answer to my prayers for a friend. I needed help and support, and she was the one God sent.
Our own lives and those of other people are blessed when we gratefully receive their kindness and service. We are blessed when we acknowledge our own need and recognize that God fulfills those needs, often through other people. Even when we feel like we don’t “need” other people’s help, maybe THEY need the blessings and the love that comes from serving us. I am learning to let people help me and ask for help too. Even if I think I can do something on my own, my life is richer when my joys and burdens are shared with others. Service brings the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost is what binds our hearts together.
We need each other. And that’s okay. And it’s because we need God—His grace, love, and power of deliverance that we can never “earn” or ever repay—that we can learn to receive with a grateful heart and then turn around and share that love with others.
So today, I’m remembering the gift given on that quiet night so long ago, and I’m practicing receiving with gratitude.