My husband just learned that he will soon need heart surgery. He’s a strong runner. This is not the kind of gift either of us expected or wanted. Two days of doctors’ visits and an echocardiogram later, our world looks differently than it did a week ago. I am confident that he will come through with a stronger heart and renewed energy, but we have suddenly joined the legions of people this season who are in need of receiving from others more able.
We love to give to others and have already exchanged a few presents with friends. But since our news reached friends and family, we have had many offers of help. One friend is planning a prayer circle on the day of the surgery. She also sent roses. A doctor friend offered to be with us at the hospital, far from where he lives.
I am holding the tears back as I write, because his offer, like our other friend’s, is a gift on another scale. It feels wonderful and scary.
Years ago, a dear friend came across the country to lend me support during a difficult time in my life. My mother told her, “Eileen will be indebted to you for the rest of her life.” My friend replied, “I came because I love Eileen.” My mother was speechless. Receiving such a gift contradicted her training.
If we receive with a promise of payback, we are not receiving fully. Receiving is like breathing. We inhale first. Our breath expels naturally, beyond our body. We don’t exhale into our lungs!
The next time someone offers you a compliment, sends flowers, or spends time with you, absorb it as an inhalation of love. Let it in. Don’t worry about breathing it back. Your own gift of oxygenated love will flow naturally. The more deeply you absorb love, the more you send into the world.