One of the biggest most generous gifts anyone ever gave me was not
allowing me to give them a big, generous gift.
Giving and receiving is fundamental to being kind, to being generous,
it's even fundamental to being nice. I've accepted gifts which
I've never used. I knew in advance I'd have no use for them. But I
accepted them anyway. It was the polite thing to do. It was the right
thing to do. It was the nice thing to do.
I'm not exactly sure where this comes from. Miss Manners
wasn't a schoolteacher of mine. There's just something about a person
giving me a gift which goeswith me accepting it (as
may have said) - whether I would ever use it or not, whether I wanted
it or not, or whether I needed it or not.
Ordinarily when we think of
we think of behavior which is unconscious, which doesn't work
either for us or for whomever's on the receiving end of it, behavior
we've simply been putting up with and would like to change but have
never gotten around to changing, and / or have never been able to
change - in spite of ourselves. We almost never include behavior we
regard as polite, behavior we regard as right, behavior we regard as
nice, good, and generous in the category of
knows no bounds. The
doesn't care what side it's on - it'll be right
no matter what.
In this regard, both the desire to give gifts and the
desire to receive gifts almost always goes unexamined.
Just because giving and receiving are held up to the light as polite,
right, nice, good, and generous behaviors doesn't lessen the potential
for them to be any less unconscious.
transformationtestable? If it is, one of the many possible litmus tests
for living life
could be: where is a my focus with regard to other people?
If a hallmark of
is the realization of one's true nature, of
who you really are,
then there'd be an expanded focus on others.
knows no bounds. It's been said "When I don't know
who I am,
I serve you. When I know
who I am,
I am you.". In a
life, there's a dramatic shift in how much attention is generously
bestowed on others, in how much being is
granted to others. Once
is appreciated as all and everything (and here I'm
others are naturally seen as an extension of one's
So where, then, in the face of generosity, in the face of
giving inside of the
is there a call to examine even behavior we cherish most ie
right behavior, nice behavior,
good and generous behavior? Where in the face
of generosity, in the face of giving, is my focus
with regard to other people? Spoken another way, where in the face of
giving is the focus of me the giver? Is my focus on myself and on my
giving and on my generosity? Or is it on the other, on the object of my
giving, on the receiver of my generosity?
In appreciation of a long, cherished friendship which produces
immeasurable value in my life, I bought my friend a really great gift.
The fact that it was also very expensive was actually of secondary
importance. It was simply an appropriate gift to give in honor of and
in recognition of the magnitude of our relationship, and as an
acknowledgement of the enormity of my gratitude for our friendship.
When I purchased it, I wasn't thinking what it cost. I was thinking
it's an appropriate acknowledgement.
I bought a fountain pen to give him. But not just any fountain pen. I
bought the top of the line Mont Blanc Meisterstück
fountain pen. Nothing else could even come close to the appropriateness
of this gift, given what my friend had made available to me.
I had the pen engraved with his first initial and last name. I'd
planned ahead by watching if he was left handed or right handed. So
when he held the pen to write, the inscription of his name would be
clearly visible, the right way up.
There are many shoddy products on the market, the kind of products
which simply get by. There's no pride in manufacture. They work
half assed. They break frequently due to poor workmanship.
Eventually you have to replace them, wondering why you ever wasted your
time, effort, and
buying such junk in in the first place.
Then there are products like the Mont Blanc
Meisterstück which are carefully crafted works of
art. In holding one, the balance is perfect, the
heft is completely, totally, and absolutely exact.
You get a sense of pride in man's accomplishments just by writing with
one of these masterpieces. And the fact that it cost me a couple of
months of my then salary was also entirely appropriate. It was worth
I took my friend out to dinner at one of the most awesome restaurants I
know. We watched the sun set from its terrace high on a hillside over
valley where I live.
The entire dinner and conversation was awesome, simply an appropriate
expression of our friendship, and one of those imminently magical
moments in time which mark the closure of all past eras and the start
of something je ne sais quoi new. At the end of this
superb, marvelous evening, at just the right moment, I gave my friend
the gift I'd chosen for him, the gorgeous Mont Blanc.
He took it, opening the elegant wrapping, looked at it, examined it in
detail saying nothing, then smiled and gave it back to me.
Looking me dead in the eyes, he said "I can't accept this.".
There are ways in which people politely refuse a gift - at
first. It's really a statement of modesty. You know they'll accept it
eventually - if you insist. However, the first thing they do ie the
polite thing they do, the modest thing they
do, is to first refuse it.
But this wasn't one of those occasions - and I knew it. He was
not going to accept my gift. It was clear to me,
very clear to me, he was saying no. Surprised at myself, I
noticed tears forming in my eyes, and I tried to blink them away,
hoping he wouldn't notice.
Composing myself and accepting this unexpected turn of events, I asked
him why he wouldn't accept my gift, explaining it was an expression of
my appreciation of our relationship, an enormous
appreciation which merited a carefully chosen awesome gift. His
response was, for the second time that evening, not what I expected. He
said it was a matter of
he wouldn't accept my gift.
In the conversation that ensued - about
about giving, about receiving, and (I soon realized) about
expectation - I actually got to see, in spite of myself,
and in spite of the fact I was coming from a nice place, a
right place, good place, and a
generous place, wherever I was coming from was nonetheless
was nonetheless unconscious, and (even though I found it difficult to
confront at first) was completely and totally unexamined.
Suddenly I found myself swinging away from the sudden
shocking disappointment of my friend's unexpected
rejection of my gift, and into an incredible
which comes only from carefully distinguishing
in my life. I saw, with vivid clarity, that I had set up expectations
of how my friend would react. I saw, with almost naïve
embarrassment, how I had it my gift would get his approval. I got (and
I really didn't want to get this at first, but there it
larger than life and twice
and staring me directly in the face) that I wanted him to recognize how
big I am for being able to afford such an item to give away.
As we spoke, as my
unraveled and could be seen for what it is, I noticed an air of
openness had engulfed us, a space of clearness, sharing, contribution,
and real generosity had come on us. The fact that the Mont
Blanc Meisterstück was by now back in my pocket had
no affect on what was now currently transpiring newly.
I said to my friend "I want you to know I get that when I gave you the
pen, I wasn't giving it coming from
I can see that now. I apologize to you for that. By not giving you the
pen coming from
I get that I wasn't
I can see that now also. I apologize to you for that too. I can see now
that by saying no coming from integrity, you were being
extraordinarily generous with me. I thank you for that.".
Then I said to him "Now that I'm back in
will you please accept my gift to you?".
I could see the smile start to flicker on his lips. His eyes lit up. He
was silent for a moment or two. I waited - in
nothing. Then he spoke. "I've never wanted many things in
life just because they're the things to have. I appreciate
fine things. Yet that doesn't mean I want them. But there are two
things I've always wanted. One's a
I've always wanted a
To me, it's the ultimate car. It's the only car I've ever wanted. So I
got one. And I've driven it ever since. I want no other car. This is it
for me.". Sure enough, I noticed he'd arrived in a
Being something of a car buff myself, I couldn't agree with him more.
They're gorgeous cars.
Then he said: "The only other thing I've always wanted but
have never gotten for myself is a Mont Blanc
Meisterstück fountain pen.".
I looked at him. He looked at me. Not another word was said. This time
his permission was palpable in the air.
In the silence that followed, I again took the Mont Blanc out of my
pocket and gave it to him. This time he kept it, trying it out on a
piece of paper I gave him expressly for that purpose, writing his name
over and over again, then writing his name and my name together over
and over again, lifting his hand up and down, up and down savoring the
perfect heft of this, the ultimate writing instrument which he now
owned, the second of only two things along with the
ultimate driving machine he's ever wanted, the ultimate
writing instrument, now his, engraved with his name.