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Avoiding The Pain of Giving

Posted Oct 26 2010 4:44am

I used to LOVE to give people things. I couldn't wait until Christmas as a kid, not because I was going to get cool stuff, but because I was going to give people cool stuff. But I recognized this morning that I had stopped being that person.

This discovery happened as I was plotting how to most efficiently package jello. Here's the story.

I am preparing a care package to send to Australia of all places. A friend there who I have been helping with some graphic stuff for his church had me order some postcards and they have to be shipped. Since the box isn't full and shipping will already be paid up to 20 pounds, I'm having fun thinking of things to go in the package. His wife, who is undergoing chemo, selected a few head scarves and bandanas. And then I discovered a list of things that people cannot buy in Australia. These people actually have grandchildren who have never had Jello Jigglers or Knox Blox because you can't buy Jello in Oz!!!!

Can you imagine childhood without Jello Jigglers? Can kids actually grow up without having them? And you can't get Koolaid, or Ranch Dressing mix, or Reeses Peanut Butter Cups! The horror.

So I have been having a lot of fun putting together this package! I have found little lightweight things to stick in there and have enjoyed the shopping and the idea of how much they will enjoy it.

But this morning I had to honestly ask myself why I don't find as much joy in doing this kind of thing for my own family, church members, or friends. Well, let me share some reasons why.

Historically, both of my girls have found ways to sabotage a good day whenever we plan one -- even when they were little. If I scheduled anything for a "girls day out" it was met with drama.... and as you know, the situation with Gabby -- who has been back and forth from her dad's to here several times in the last week -- is not exactly one where I feel comfortable having fun.

I also have two children who have a habit of having an incredibly huge fit if I do anything for or with anyone else. They scream "unfair, unfair" and have such meltdowns that the joy is taken away. And even if I can do it in secret, the fear of them finding out makes the whole event less than fun.

And then there are other people in my community. Why don't I do things for them? Well, as a pastor's wife, if I were to do something for one person, then next time the expectation would be that I do it for them as well. And if I didn't, well, I think you know how that would go!

This whole experience of preparing the package has been fun because nobody expects me to do it. Nobody has asked me to, and the response will simply be gratitude. I will get to hear about the experience of two cute little girls experiencing their first jello jigglers -- without having to be there for the meltdown that happens before nap time when they get worn out. I can imagine in my mind the lovely time they are having without having to clean up the sticky jello. I will be able to provide an experience and vicariously enjoy the good things while not having to deal with the bad.

So maybe this isn't really about me being a nice person and doing something good for someone else. Maybe this is about me having done so many good things for my own kids over the years without the result being what I imagined, that I would like the opportunity to skip all the nasty parts of doing something nice and just enjoy the good parts.

Maybe none of us are completely altruistic. Maybe all of us have a need to have what we do for others simply be enjoyed, no strings attached with drama free gratitude. But if you are the parent of children with mental health issues or adoption issues -- or sometimes just a parent period -- then you know that there are often negative things that happen that almost punish us for doing something good.

But this whole experience has taught me a few things.

1) Every once and a while it's OK to practice a not-so-random act of kindness not only because it makes someone else feel good, but because it makes me feel good as well.

2) My life has gotten pretty sad if I have stopped doing fun things for or with my children because the price to pay is too high.

3) I need to discover some ways to bring joy back into giving. My resolve has weakened and I have become kind of a wimp. I need to buck up and stop being pathetic when it comes to avoiding the pain of giving and stop being afraid of the reaction it will cause.

4) We are heading into heavy birthday season around here. Six of our 12 kids have birthdays between November 15 and Christmas Day and Gabby's is the 29th. I need to discover some ways as the holidays come up that I can turn things around mentally so that I can give joyfully once again. Maybe shopping with a friend or doing something out of the ordinary would help.

More than likely half of my life is already over. It's good to have a wakeup call once and a while and to realize when I need to do an about face about something and do things differently. And it looks like Jello will now be a memory trigger that the joy of giving, when it's done with the right attitude and correct expectations, will always outweigh the pain.
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