Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to Give, and Receive

I walk back to my car, my hands are full of presents—four bags heavy candy and food and drinks. They’ve replaced the one small bag of the gift I brought the little girl for her birthday.

I’ve just left her party, my stomach stuffed with chicken satay and rice, my hands full of these gifts meant for my kids and another friend’s kids—who couldn’t come. Party favors of sorts—given to all the guests—even the ones who didn’t make it.

It’s another example of how I receive more than I give.

It’s hot and I parked too far away. I was trying to find a shortcut to the house of the couple with the 3-year-old whose birthday it is. When I visit them, I usually park at one end of a narrow alleyway meant for motorbikes, not cars.

Today, I parked on a different road and tried another small alley, meandering my way through this neighborhood of wooden shacks and piles of trash mixed in with the occasional middle-class concrete house.

But I got lost on the shortcut and ended up walking further around bends and wrong turns until I finally saw the set of purple houses on that one bend right before Rara’s house.

Rara—the birthday girl—lives in one of those semi-decent houses—her dad a cop, her mom a pretty, but shy woman. As I prepared to leave, they pointed me to the main road and asked where I parked after loading me down with their gifts.

“Close,” I said, knowing it would be a walk, but also knowing that if I admitted that to them that they’d leave their dozens of guests to give me a ride on a motorbike to my car.

I really don’t want to inconvenience them, and I don’t mind the walk, especially since I left the kids at home napping and resting with dad after a busy morning.

“Come back and visit any time,” they said, and I know they mean it, almost as if they wait for me to come back, ready with ice cream for the kids and a cold drink for me.

This time, for the party, I meant to stop by for a short visit, which turned into a bit longer visit while the hosts insisted I eat and eat. So, the walk will give me a chance to let the food settle. And think.

I do my best thinking while I walk or run--all those thoughts and feelings worked out of my head with the sweat. Yesterday I took the kids to a local park and pushed Renea in her stroller while Evan played. I jogged past the kids and adults out playing and exercising and meandering away their Saturday afternoon. They greeted me and smiled at me and bent low to wave to Renea.

When I finally stopped—Renea was bored and wanted to get out and play—we became a magnet. Kids and adults swarmed us, taking pictures, playing with Renea, pushing Evan on the swing.

Some people get frustrated by all this attention, and sometimes I do, too. But then I look closer and see that I can receive more when I exchange my frustration for their gifts. Their love, their openness to me and the kids, their acceptance of anything my kids do as adorable. Though I am sweaty and smelly, they have time to hear my story, asking for pictures with their arms around my wet shirt, camera-phones clicking.

Sometimes I wonder why I’m here in a place where I often receive more than I give. More patience is bestowed to me than I share with others. Their hospitality outshines my meager attempts. Others have time for me while I often feel too busy to meander my life purposely through theirs.

But then I remember the gift that I have received—for nothing that I gave. The love that pours into me even as I stumble around wrong turns and missed opportunities. The grace given into arms emptied of any real good apart from His perfection.

Though I will never be able to show better hospitality than my friends here. Though they will always be more patient than I am. Though I let myself be annoyed even as they “bother” me with their accepting attention.

I do have one gift they could use. One that changed my own life. >One that I hope they will accept from my hands overflowing with His grace.

photo credit, Mulad

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