Giving the Gift of Receiving
“Giving the gift of receiving,” sounds like a contradiction. How can you give a gift that you receive? I think you can and I think it can be the greatest gift you give and receive all year. Here’s why.
As a caregiver for someone who is totally disabled with very limited abilities, my world is very structured and organized. It has to be in order to keep Lynn healthy, to meet all his abundant needs, and in order to get all those things done that must be done by the end of each day. Because I must be so organized, changing my schedule or having someone come in to “help” me is often very disruptive. I know they are well meaning and I know they truly want to help; I get that, but truthfully, it’s also disruptive even while helpful. If someone is coming over to help, they typically want to do it first thing in the morning to get it out of the way so they can get on with their day. I would want to do that as well so I understand why they ask to come over early. However, in order to receive visitors, I have to make sure that Lynn’s three-hour morning routine is completed before they arrive. So if someone wants to come in “mid-morning” at 9:00 a.m. because he/she is an early riser, then I must get us up at 6:00 a.m. Getting up at 6 doesn’t sound bad except when you realize we can’t get to bed most nights until 2 or 3 a.m. Therefore, before a visit, we are often getting a “nap” rather than a night’s sleep which compromises not only my well-being but Lynn’s since he battles fatigue.
Another concern for letting people give their help is potential exposure to infections. When family members or close friends come over, they already know our “rule” for visiting–if you might be sick, don’t come! That little sniffle might not stop a visitor from spreading holiday cheer but from our perspective, they are bringing in a weapon that threatens Lynn’s safety and welfare. His immune system is compromised and an innocent, though irritating, cold for most people can put Lynn in bed or even the hospital for weeks. I remind anyone who asks to come over of our house rules, but occasionally they still show up with the sniffles thinking that they just won’t touch him or sneeze/cough in his direction and it will be okay, but what they forget is that the greater spread of their virus and other germs is not the cough or sneeze (though such an action carries the germ a good distance), it is the unwashed hands after such an event that touches something he or I use. Since I provide all his care, not only do I have to limit his exposure but mine as well so that I won’t be the carrier into his environment or I won’t become sick and unable to care for him. Therefore, though I try to be kind, if someone is sick I often ask them not to stay and help.
Then finally, the other challenge for accepting help is that someone cannot come into someone else’s house or in most cases, take over a task without instructions. If it’s someone already trained in a function, that’s not so bad but if they are coming over to pinch-hit then I must be available to show them where things are located and to caution them about risks associated with ideas they may have that seem good on the surface but won’t work for a house that must have space for wheelchair access. Even bringing over food is an issue. Lynn’s diet consists of no gluten products, no diary, only grass fed meets or poultry, no sweets, only wild caught fish, no pasta, grains, or beans. Now try to tell someone who wants to bring over a food gift about all these rules and not be insulting! Therefore, most food gifts cannot be used or I end up giving them away or eating them myself (and I don’t need all those sweets or high calorie casseroles).
With all these challenges, it’s very tempting to tell people we don’t need any help or make up an excuse for them not to come over. It’s not that I don’t appreciate their help and after they have come and the project is completed, it REALLY IS a great help most of the time; it’s just that any disruption to my routine compromises my sanity and the delicate balance of my life. But then again….it is the season of giving and if I’m really honest and put aside my need for order and routine; I really need help.
And, if I really stop to think on it, it really is better to give than to receive. It can actually be selfish not to allow others to give to you or to help you out. I think many of us (hopefully most of us) have a desire to care for others. When we don’t allow others to act on that desire, then aren’t we contributing to the selfishness of the world? Aren’t we preventing them from experiencing that deep-down warm feeling of joy that comes from giving unselfishly to others? Could; therefore, our best gift for the holidays be to allow others to give to us? I think it could be. I think allowing ourselves to receive what others want to provide is a gift of receiving; giving others the gift of joy that comes from loving others and sharing. So, even though “receiving” has its challenges, I will accept those and adapt my schedule accordingly and be thankful that others in this world still care enough to give and I’ll remember to be gracious enough to receive because I really, really am blessed by having so many people in my life who willingly give.