Try Giving Yourself
Arline Boucher and John Tehan

  

Gracious giving requires no special talent, nor large amounts of money.  It is compounded of the heart and head acting together to achieve the perfect means of expressing our feelings.  It is love sharpened with imagination.  For, as Emerson explains, "The only gift is a portion of thyself."

A little girl gave her mother several small boxes tied with bright ribbons.  Inside each were slips of paper on which the child had printed messages such as, "Good for two flower-bed weedings," "Good for two floor-scrubbings."  She had never read Emerson, but unconsciously she put a large part of her small self into her gift.

When unexpected expenses wrecked a business girl's budget at Christmas, she hit upon a similar happy idea.  Her presents that year were "time credit" slips which her friends could cash in at their convenience.  A young couple received slips entitling them to leave the baby with her for two week-ends.  T a niece in college went an offer of her car for a Christmas vacation trip.  An elderly shut-in could claim her time for five reading-aloud sessions.  No costly presents gave so much satisfaction--both ways.

A young bride received a wedding present from an older woman.  With it went a note, "Do not open until you and your husband have your first tiff."  

When there finally came a day of misunderstanding the bride remembered the package.  In it she found a card box filled with her friend's favorite recipes--and a note, "You will catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar."  It was a wise woman indeed who gave of her experience with her gift.

Often the most successful gift is a spontaneous one.  Act while the impulse is fresh--giving of yourself knows no special days.

Probably no gift ever thrilled a doctor more than a letter he received from a youngster on her birthday.  "Dear Doctor, 14 years ago you brought me into this world.  I want to thank you, for I have enjoyed every minute of it."

Family gifts should be the most satisfying because we know each member's wish and whim.  Yet how often we make the stereotyped offerings--ties, candy, or household utensils.  One man I know is planning an unusual present for his wife.  When I saw him coming out of a dancing studio, he explained:  "I got tired of hearing my wife complain about my dancing.  It's going to be a lasting birthday present for her--my dancing well."

An elderly lady on an Iowa farm wept with delight when her son in New York had a telephone installed in her house and followed it up with a weekly long-distance call.

Flowers are our first thought for a sick friend.  But why not a more imaginative idea?  A friend in a hospital received a flowerpot filled with dirt.  On top was a packet of seeds with the note, "You'll have more fun growing your own!"  A nurse told me about a woman patient whose recovery dated from the moment a neighbor brought her a pressure cooker, something she had always wanted.

In her autobiography, His Eye Is on the Sparrow, Ethel Waters tells about her gift to Rex Stout when he was convalescing.  Though she was starring at the time in a Broadway play, she turned up early one morning at the hospital and, dressed as a nurse, carried in his breakfast tray.  She spent the day with Stout, diverting him with chitchat, wheeling his chair, giving him all her attention.  Friends of the author said that this was his most cherished gift.

In your own profession or business you have imaginative gift opportunities.  One Christmas morning a Washington, D.C., woman was waiting for a trolley to go to the station when a taxi stopped beside her.  The driver motioned her to get in.  At the station when she fumbled in her purse for the fare, the driver said, "Nothing doing--I asked you.  Merry Christmas."  In memory of her sister who was killed in service during the war, a waitress often pays the checks of servicemen who sit at her table.

All gifts that contain a portion of self signify that someone has been really thinking of us.  One of the most useful and thoughtful travel presents a girl ever received was currency of the country to which she was going.  A friend bought her some pesos from a bank so that she would have the correct money for tips and taxi fare when she first arrived in Mexico.

A GI stationed in Mississippi tells this story:  "I made friends with a sharecropper who lived near camp.  Though poor, he was the most contented man I had ever met.  One day when I was grousing about not being able to borrow $20 that I needed, he handed me the money, saying it was a gift, not a loan.  He explained it this way:  'If I lend you this money and for some reason you never return it, I must always think you have wronged me.  If I give it to you as a gift, we're both happy.  When you have the money and feel you want to make me a gift of $20, then we'll both be happy again.'"

Chances for heroic giving are rare, yet every day there are opportunities to give a part of yourself to someone who needs it.  It may be no more than a kind word or a letter written at the right time.  The important thing about any gift is the amount of yourself you put into it.

1951

  
   

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