More than 1,500 miles separates me from my hometown and my parents. This has been the case for over 20 years but in the last few weeks that distance has never felt farther than it does now. My parents are aging into their eighties and with that come daily struggles with the things that used to be considered routine. Family has moved across the country, friends have aged or passed on and interaction with anyone outside their home has all but ceased. They have lived in their home their entire married life of 55 years and have no intention of changing that anytime soon. Yet they do not want to receive the help necessary for that to continue. And thus the struggle.
My parents were children growing up during the depression. They grew up in a time of great need learning to share. Their own fathers had gainful employment during the depression. Because of this extended family members who had lost their jobs moved in to share the already cramped 2 bedroom homes they occupied. Early in their lives my parents learned to live with little and sacrifice even the little they had to share with others. And that has shaped them. They are givers yet find it difficult to receive. They will help a stranger but refuse help for themselves even from their own family.
I have always known this about them, even admired them for their generosity, but as they have aged and need help with the daily routine of life it has become not admirable but frustrating for me. They still want to be self-sufficient and independent though their mind and bodies are beginning to fail them. When help is offered it is refused. They have always lived on the giving end of the equation and resist moving to the receiving side.
What makes it so hard to be a graceful receiver? Someone willing to accept another’s generosity, ask for help or allow another to meet our need. Is it pride, fear, humiliation? Giver. Receiver. Antonyms. Yet we need to know how to do both well. A good leader has known what it is like to follow someone. A master teacher has spent years being a learner. And a generous giver knows how to be a gracious receiver. The same hands that openly give do so because they acknowledge they have first received.
Can one truly learn to give unless they know how to receive? How well do I live on each side of that equation? I’ll be visiting my parents this week hoping that I can be a generous giver and a gracious receiver. And encouraging them to do the same.