The Giving Tree

 

Giving. Generousity. Sharing. These are lovely words we teach our kids. Words we struggle to embody ourselves. How many of us are true givers? But more importantly, how many of us are good accepters?

In secondary school, we all had Goodbye books. For fun, I wrote cute, zany notes in people’s own. A girl, who used to be my friend but had hurt me (she got me beaten up once by lying) approached me to write in hers. Reluctantly I wrote a polite non-funny note. She tore the page out and said I should have not written anything. She felt entitled to my sense of humour, no matter what.

Same with my estate gateman. He never realises we can hear him bitching as he goes around his job. He expects only the best, nevermind your actual state of finances (if you must tip him, tip generously or he squeezes his face. How dare you give him N200 when you should have dropped N750!). He had a baby and came, fawning to me. I had already made my mind up not to give him anything because I can’t trust that he won’t be offended I’m giving him “old clothes and toys”, nevermind they’re in good condition.

Nigerians, we are entitled. Own it with your chest! “If you must give, give the best or don’t give!” we say. Then we complain that people are only kind to those they know.

When I was pregnant, some friends sent old clothes. Context: they were wealthier than me and also not the same race. Ooohhhh, touchy. I switched to my Naija mentality: “who the #$@ do they think they’re giving their cast-offs too?!”. When my child was born, the only clothes that fit her was their stuff (comfy and non-scratchy on her sensitive skin due to being broken in). And when they visited me and saw me in floods of tears and depression over Breastfeeding issues, they rushed out to buy me a nice breastpump, pricey organic disposable diapers and wipes, fresh fruit and a bouquet of white roses and gardenias, to adorn my room. They keep sending over stuff whenever everyone is coming (books, toys, you name it). Imagine if I had given my sense of entitlement voice earlier.

Do you know how many freebies you’ve missed out on, because of your sense of entitlement? Tante, my older female relative, once told me of her friend who wanted to throw a magnificent birthday party. So she approached Tante for support and Tante gave her N150,000 (dash!). The “friend” got upset, she had calculated Tante’s net worth and felt she could “do better”.

Na wa.

Parents, let me say this: if someone says “send me your child’s account details” and sends you N3,500, call them and thank them like it was N350,000. If your neighbour you don’t speak to, comes to you saying “I noticed you were pregnant, here are some diapers my child did not use”, please collect it with a grateful smile. No, they’re not trying to shame you or imply that you don’t have money or can’t afford to buy diapers. That person is being considerate. How can you be internally complaining that people are not nice, yet complain when they do a little for you? How?

What example do you think you’re setting for your children when you act entitled to other’s generousity?

Now, let us flip the coin and take a look at those who will give you stuff laden with insult and mockery. Your reply? Kill them with effusive kindness. My mum is the Queen of Effusive Kindness: her in-law’s “I-just-got-back” wife sent her a very silly gift (she didn’t even bother to hide that she was atempting to mock Mumsy). My mum took it with fulsome praise and always brings it out to thank her for it whenever they see. Which is hilarious, as the wife in question later was told that her visa and that of her husband’s that they used to relocate, plus some extra money, was loaned to them by my mum. See the squirming and uncomfortable looks the wife gives my mum once she starts. And trust my mum, she ensures there’s an audience when she starts her effusive kindness. Anyone looking at the item knows it was an insult and give the wife vicious glares. Yes, my mum is a chess player.

Please, give with nothing but kindness and goodwill in your heart. Give because you want to be helpful, because you think someone needs what you’re offering. Give and be quick to wave aside their thanks, a gracious “It’s nothing” and a smile. Give sweetly, give happily, give with a generousity of spirit.

Surprise yourself today. If someone says “my child doesn’t play with this toy”, receive it with a smile. If someone offers you clothes her boy no longer wears or brings a dress they just took off because they noticed your pregnant belly could no longer fit your regular clothes, say “how thoughtful of you to have me in mind!”. Be a generous receiver. We were all put on earth to help each other.

 

In all that you do, give thanks.

 

 

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