A co-worker sent me an email, short and succinct: “It seems like your job has been really hard lately. I put two cans of your favorite soda in the fridge by your office. It’s not much, but I hope it makes things better.” I read the email and felt an instant sense of validation wash over me. Someone noticed. They noticed that things had been hard – they had been – and they made a small, sweet (literally and figuratively) gesture to right my world that was currently dotted with wrongs.
Later that afternoon, I took a break from my string of impossible problems to solve and popped open an ice cold can of caffeinated, carbonated Sweet Nectar of the Gods. For the second time in a day, I reflected on the gesture. I had replied to the original email thanking the person for their thoughtfulness and I meant it sincerely. But I didn’t go over the top, I didn’t wonder why or what now or sit with any discomfort. Rather, I just accepted.
We often think of the world as having givers and takers, and I suppose some of that is true. And if it’s true, I want to be remembered for being on the side of the givers. I am – I know I am – and it’s one of my most important values to be generous in spirit. But giving is an art form, and what I think people forget or perhaps don’t understand, is that giving has an ever-present faithful companion at its side. That companion is the grace of acceptance.
To accept, no matter how small or how large the gesture, you are knowingly making yourself vulnerable to the giver. You are saying, without really saying out loud, “I am okay with you taking care of me.” You are acknowledging that in that moment, you just might have needs and doubts and insecurities. But by accepting their gesture, you are giving the giver the gift of joy that can only come from helping another person. I believe that to be truly generous – generous at every level of your being – you must also learn to gracefully receive.
I know in my heart that the person who left me two sodas in my workplace fridge has been the recipient of my kindness many times over. It has been a kindness and a generosity of which she was most deserving. I have no doubts that she will be the recipient of it again in the future – it’s just the nature of our relationship. But what she gave me on this day was far more than a dollar’s worth of soda. She gave me the reminder that accepting is lovely and important, too. For that – more than for the soda – I am grateful many times over.