Friday, July 28, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 28

I remember a Thanksgiving in the blue mountains of the Cumberland Rim, the air spiced with roasting turkey, sauteed onions, browning rolls. Visitors came and went, catching up on stories. One of my mother's friend dropped off a homemade chocolate pie, then left in a flurry of hugs and good wishes. Later, when we tried to cut a slice, the rich filling oozed, pooling in the bottom of the pan. We just we dipped it out like pudding, and everybody said it was the best chocolate dessert ever, the perfect ending to our meal. 

A day or so after the holiday, my mother's friend returned for her pie plate, but the pie--well, part of it--was still in the pan. She took one look at the soupy mess and flew into a tizzy.
"What's wrong with you people?" she cried. "Don't y'all know how to eat a pie?"
Aghast, she scraped the remains of her pie into the garbage pail, then stomped off.
It was a small altercation, albeit an unpleasant one, but it upset my 89-year old mother to her core.

"You'd thought would we'd fed that pie to rats--before we sacrificed them," my mother quipped.

I just had to wonder why the friend, an 88-year old woman, had a hissy fit. After all, my 89-year old mother is frail and disabled. She hadn't cut the pie. (Actually, it was me.) What was the real problem?  Had the pie been given with strings--had the lady wanted effusive praise? A shining, clean empty plate? Or maybe the woman's holiday had gone poorly, and her nerves were frayed. I believe the woman's heart was in that pie, and when she saw a soupy, hacked up dessert, she felt as if her gift had been abused or even rejected.
At any rate, Mom and the friend made up quickly, and the incident was forgotten.
But it made me wonder about giving.
Why, in fact, do we give? Because we have an agenda or because it brings joy?
Are invisible strings attached? Hidden to our own eyes? Or do we give freely, with love and abandon?
Once we release a gift, we can't hold on. We must relinquish control and expectations. Our gift may be re-gifted or sold on Ebay. It may be forgotten or thrown in the garbage. We may not receive so much as a fly-by thank you. 

Not that it really matters.
We give because it fills our souls.
 And when the act of giving goes awry, all we can do is acknowledge the event and move forward with grace and a bit of humor.

"I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver."
-- Maya Angelou

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living
A 31-Day Challenge


  1. This is just wonderful Michael Lee..just wonderful..thank you..
    Love, Mona

  2. I've always loved giving gifts, even when I was a child. It gave me undeniable pleasure to make gifts and give them to family or special friends. Yes, I believe we gift because it fills our souls. I rarely think about the gifts after the fact, though I admit that when I see someone using or enjoying a gift I've given, it makes me smile. I have a good friend who in recent years sold her home along with many of her beautiful things. She built a very small home for herself and was purposely selective with what she kept and displays in this home. Time and again, I notice that she kept things I've given her through the years. I'm sincerely surprised but very touched that these gifts made the cut. In doing so, she has unknowingly given me the ultimate gift that feeds my soul.
    Thank you for another insightful post, Michael Lee.

  3. Thought provoking and inspiring.

  4. I love giving gifts, especially handmade/homemade ones, Michael Lee. I guess it makes me feel that I'm giving a little bit of me to the recipient, and brings me JOY.
    Now I want a piece of that berry pie, with my cup of tea, as I read Day 29....
    P. S. You're such a wonderful, descriptive writer. I could just picture and smell that Thanksgiving.

  5. I must remember this, give without often I am disappointed after gift giving, obviously I am giving with expectations not freely giving...thank you for this important lesson...

    1. I think so many people feel this way...I wonder if we are hardwired in some way about gift giving?