The older I get, the more I realize that my success is mostly the product of the generosity of others. I am privileged to have a supportive family and friend group that genuinely cares about my well-being and who makes efforts to protect it.
Similarly, the older I get, the more I understand the importance of learning how to not only give but how to receive gifts from others. My best friend since grade school is a big part of that learning. He is the only person I know who would actually give you the shirt off his back if you asked for it and he's always going out of his way to bless others.
For the past decade, I've seen him pay for countless meals and movie tickets for his friends and family without hesitation. I'm not super privy to his financial situation, but I know he's a young 20-something without a salaried career like myself. I'm not loaded with cash so I'm willing to bet that he's not either. Yet he gives so freely that I often wonder if he has a bottomless bank account.
I've learned a lot from watching him and now that I have a disposable income, I love to pay for others when I can afford to. I know that this behavior is directly inspired by my best friend modeling this generosity to me for years. Now it is a blessing to be able to spend an hour or two enjoying the company of a good friend and then covering the bill as a cherry on top of an already good experience.
The other side of this, I'm learning, is that I must equally be willing to accept the kindness of others. I used to be offended if someone offered to pay for my meal because I thought that they I was a charity case. While it's true, at times I haven't always been able to afford the places my friends wanted to go to, I didn't want them to foot the bill for me. It humiliated me because I never wanted to be looked at as the poor black friend.
However, as I started paying for others I realized that usually someone who offered to pay for me was doing so with nothing but the best intentions. Now I believe it's a give-and-take that everyone benefits from. The giver is blessed to be able to make someone else smile and the receiver is blessed to know that someone else cares enough about them to take care of them even through the simple act of paying for a meal. As much as I enjoy giving to others, I must be equally humble and willing to accept others' gifts to me, because their giving is a part of their joy.
In the end, I believe it all comes back around. This week is a perfect example. On Monday, I bought breakfast for my family. On Tuesday, a college buddy paid for my lunch. On Wednesday, I covered lunch with a church friend while one of my closest high school friends paid for my dinner as a Christmas gift. Doing the math, I spent around the same amount of money as I would have if I bought my own meals in all four of these scenarios. However, the memories of these events are strengthened and sweeter because they are tied to acts of love.
I truly believe that as you give, you receive also. Not always in a monetary fashion, but perhaps in love, joy, and a peace that surpasses understanding. This holiday season, it is important to reflect on not only giving good gifts but also how to receive kindness from others even if you didn't ask for it or it is undeserved.