Daily Reading for November 21

Why is it so difficult to acknowledge a gift as a gift? Here is the reason. When I admit that something is a gift, I admit my dependence on the giver. This may not sound that difficult, but there is something within us that bristles at the idea of dependence. We want to get along by ourselves. Yet a gift is something we simply cannot give to ourselves—not as a gift, at any rate. I can buy the same thing or even something better. But it will not be a gift if I procure it for myself. I can go out and treat myself to a magnificent treat. I can even be grateful later for the good time I had. But can I be grateful to myself for having treated myself so well? That would be neck-breaking mental acrobatics. Gratefulness always goes beyond myself. For what makes something a gift is precisely that it is given. And the receiver depends on the giver.

This dependence is always there when a gift is given and received. Even a mother depends on her child for the smallest gift. Suppose a little boy buys his mother a bunch of daffodils. He is giving nothing that he has not already received. His mother gave him not only the money he spent, but his very life and the upbringing that made him generous. Yet his gift is something that she depends on his giving. There is no other way she could receive it as a gift. Gift giving is a celebration of the bond that unites giver and receiver. That bond is gratefulness.

From Gratefulness, Heart of Prayer by David Steindl-Rast (Paulist Press, 1984).

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