When my little girl turned eight last week, I had the joy of giving her something I knew she wanted. There was a particular pleasure of knowing that she would be delighted when she pulled the doll out of the box, because she had been hinting for months that she hoped I would give her one of my vintage American Girl dolls from the nineties. There is a sense of predictability in the giving of something that has been requested or wished-for.
Conversely, three of her brothers pooled their money to buy her a really great yo-yo because it is something THEY wanted her to have. But what was really special about this in my eyes is what the gift signified. It was not the type of gift that means, “I really wanted this, so I got it for you and hope you will let me use it,” or even “I really think you need this in order to find some certain sense of achievement…” Rather, it was a gift that implied an invitation. When her brothers (especially the two older brothers, who have been recently enamored with yo-yo skills and tricks) gave her this yo-yo, it was an invitation to join them in their fun. It was extending their hobby toward her with an open door and a mat that said, “welcome! please join us!” And they had a particular pleasure, knowing that they would be surprising her by giving her something she had not requested… except for the innate and inexhaustible desire to be welcomed and accepted and loved and included.
There are many ways to give. And the most important way is to give with a heart that overflows with joy. Our little joy-girl was given much joy by receiving gifts that were given with much joy. And it got me to thinking: how can we live and give this way not just on a birthday, not just to a family member, but within the larger context of community and daily living.
How can we pursue joyful giving???