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The hard task of being a cheerful receiver

By D. G. Martin
Posted Tuesday, December 27, 2005

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What are you going to do with it?

You know what I am talking about, don't you? It is that Christmas present, the one you got from your good friend. The one that just isn't anything close to what you wanted.

Receiving things cheerfully used to be so easy. Back in the days when we didn't have very much, any gift that came our way was bound to be much-appreciated. It wasn't as hard to give or receive. Everything we got or gave was sure to be needed and appreciated.

But today, when we are covered up with material things, giving is more of a challenge.

And it is hard to pretend to be grateful for a present that, all in all, you would rather not have.

I have a friend who rises to the challenge of gift giving. He studies his potential recipients and always finds something special - something they are bound to like and appreciate. He gets a big kick out of his successes.

On the other hand, there are people like me. I might be the world's worst gift giver. There are lots of examples - like the time I got a set of bargain-basement underwear for my wife after she dropped a hint that she might like some lingerie. Or when I gave some of my friends a thousand-plus page book and then pestered them for weeks about when they were going to read it.

I could go on and on. And my friends could tell you things I don't even know that show how bad I am. But maybe the worst gift I ever gave was the grapevine I gave to my parents one Christmas. It came in a package, cut back to its roots. It cost a couple of dollars.

A grapevine - what was I thinking about? Well, I was selfish. I thought they would plant the vine, it would grow up, and soon they would be picking grapes. And thinking of me every time they ate one.

It didn't work that way.

They had to put hours and hours of time to plant it, fertilize it, water it, and protect it from the cold and heat. Then, when it did grow they had to build a frame to hold it.

Looking back, I am sure my parents never wanted the grapevine. (The plant must have known how they felt because it never bore any fruit.)

But my parents gave me the best gift. They never complained about the troublesome vine that never produced a single grape. They were the perfect gift receivers. They would take a terrible gift and make the giver feel good about giving it.

A lot of people are on the opposite end of things. They can't accept gifts without some kind of "put down" thinking about the gift giver - even when the gifts are really nice.

They think it is in the spirit of things to run down the gifts they receive at Christmas, and you hear them saying things like: "Oh, how could he have thought I would have wanted such a thing?" "What a cheap gift! I would rather have gotten nothing!"

It more that bad manners. An ungrateful gift receiver gives the worst Christmas gift. He makes the giver into a failure, when he could have made him a hero.

In fact, whenever I think about the best Christmas presents I ever got, I think about that grapevine, and how my parents made me feel so good about such a bad gift.

So, even though Christmas Day over, you might still have a chance to give your best gift.

The gift of being a good receiver.

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