For some reason as I was puttering around the kitchen today, I started thinking about someone who hasn't occupied any space in my mind or my life for a number of years. She was a coworker who briefly turned into a friend. There were many things about her that I loved, as she was radically different from anyone I had ever known before. Ivy, as I am going to call her in this blog, was an incredibly outspoken person. To put it into perspective, Trent and most of my friends will tell you that I am pretty straightforward about things. But I manage to do so with consideration and gentility. Bwaaahahaha! That gentility part sounds so classy, right? Seriously, though, I think we can be upfront about things without hurting another's feelings if we engage our brain before we engage our mouth. Compared to Ivy, I am one step away from being completely closed-off.
Ivy was the kind of person who would say very intelligent things and then follow up by being completely out of order. It was things of this nature that, for me, began the ending of our relationship. We were both tellers in the drive-though of a busy bank in downtown Denver. I truly loved my job, and was able to have fun with it. I had made a conscious decision early in my banking career that I was going to have a positive and happy attitude with customers. And that philosophy worked well for me. But Ivy made me wonder why we were friends when she asked me, "Don't you think this job is degrading?" I was stunned. Where I got satisfaction from helping people with their accounts, even if it was something as simple as processing a deposit, she felt shame at having to be of service to someone else.
Being in a drive-through, we were able to listen to music while we were working. I'm a person that pays attention to what people enjoy or respond to. During a conversation about music, she mentioned that she really liked an artist whose song we had just heard on the radio. He had a distinctive voice which really appealed to her. So when Christmas time rolled around, I went to several different music stores until I found his most recent album. I was excited knowing that she was going to absolutely love my gift. When the day before Christmas rolled around, she opened her package and said, "Oh. I was excited because I thought it was going to be so-and-so's (a different artist entirely) album! Oh, well, maybe I'll like this one."
I was stunned. It wasn't just because she didn't like the gift I had put so much thought and effort into getting. It was the response. I know that like me, everyone reading this has received at least one gift that has really been a letdown or a real head-scratcher. But receiving a gift graciously is as important as the act of giving itself. Hey, I know I have been the recipient of a few gifts through the years that made me wonder if the giver knew anything about me other than my name, but I have always accepted them with pleasure that someone cared enough to give them to me. And I have never gone to the store the next day to return or exchange.
I'm not trying to say I am a perfect gift recipient. I may be sitting there thinking, "Wow, Aunt Susie does have taste. Unfortunately, it's all in her mouth!" Maybe my experience with Ivy, although hurtful at the time, was a good experience after all. I learned first-hand that an unloved gift can cause more pain and embarrassment to the giver than the receiver. So the next time your Aunt Susie excitedly gives you an atrocious scarf, be gracious. Give a gift back by thanking her and then wrapping it around your neck. I can almost guarantee that it will create a precious moment that you will both be happy to remember.