I’m not going to lie; it was a very awkward moment. And I didn’t recover well. Not well at all.
It was a good friend’s birthday party, and she had mentioned to me at some point in the past that she’d love to get a KitchenAid mixer, when she had the money. Well, being the person I am, I thought I’d rally all the friends coming to the party to pitch in and assemble our efforts to buy the mixer.
I got there the day of, only to find that someone else had already purchased the mixer! I was dumbfounded and totally unprepared. I didn’t have a plan B. And so, I admitted defeat and simply gave up, not knowing what to do next. Should I give the money back to the people who had contributed? Should I try to buy something else? Should I just give her the cash? Truly, for all involved, it was awkward. My reaction didn’t help.
I only realized it recently, but I sometimes do that to others and even to God: I rob them of the opportunity to give me wonderful gifts. I do that every time I’m not getting something fast enough in my life, and I decide to take matters into my own hands and go out and get whatever it is I really want.
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to be driven and to work hard, to earn money, possessions and respect, nor is it bad to accomplish ones goals. That’s not it at all. But some things can’t be taken. Some things can only be given.
Some things aren’t meant to be “For me, by me, from me” if you will. I’m reminded of an old Buddhist proverb that so beautifully demonstrates the difference between Heaven and Hell. The version I heard was that in each place, there was a giant table, laden with all of the delicacies one can imagine. All of the most delicious foods are spread out along the table, but each person has meter-long chopsticks attached to both hands.
In Hell, the people fight and poke one another, trying in vain to get anything into their mouth. The people are starving. The setup is the same in Heaven, only there, the people are satisfied. In Heaven, they feed one another from across the table using their long chopstick.
This image has influenced me greatly. I grew up and had a lot of my adult life living in relatively poor circumstances. I’ve been in that situation where I had to decide if the last $10 in my pocket was going towards gas to get to work, or for food. Needless to say, I was not a generous person at this time in my life. Well, at least I wasn’t generous with my money. I did give of my time and energy.
But I remember people who were generous. I would cringe a little inside every time someone offered to buy my meal. And I had a hard time accepting it, at first. But then I began to understand the pleasure someone might have at being able to take another person for a meal. I started to imagine myself being able to buy someone a meal. Believe it or not, this was a big deal to me. I made it a goal. I wanted to buy someone dinner, unexpectedly. This one desire helped open the door for me to understand the ideas of generosity, abundance and gift giving in a whole new light.
When I started making decent money, I wasn’t content to spend only on myself. (But, you know, I am a girl, and there was definitely some spending on myself going on…) I wanted to bless others. I found purpose in being able to give gifts.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t just being able to give someone something they wanted or needed. It wasn’t just a matter of fulfilling a need or desire. It’s about getting to know people and being known. That’s the greatest desire of our hearts. How many of us hate being judged by what we did one day, or that one thing we said that one time? That’s not who we are!
We are much more complex than that. Finding out what another’s pleasure is, and then sacrificing something in order to give them that pleasure. That in my mind is the ultimate greatest thing we can do for one another.
The best part is that many times, these pleasures aren’t large. They aren’t extravagant. They are small, easy to fulfil desires, like spending time with a spouse doing something they love that you don’t, or a hand-written note to your mom, or an afternoon of fishing with your dad.
If you want to significantly increase the pleasure you get out of life, I encourage you to seek and fulfil the pleasure of another.
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