Sunday, October 25, 2009

Giving and Receiving

Karen and I saw side by side, desks abutting, at our job. She is petite, reed thin, blond, a charmer, a natural salesperson. I am her near opposite. Short, round, dark, aloof. She is also one of the most intelligent women I know. I mean, she could take her checkbook and at a glance could balance it in her head. Me, I need a calculator, pencil with eraser, and loads of uninterrupted time. And then only after some struggle could I make the numbers balance.

Unfortunately, she was involved in a serious head-on collision in her car and she and her sister were seriously injured, Karen suffering some brain damage. She lost part of her memory (not knowing her family), her ability to do balance her checkbook just by looking at it, and the ability to tell if she were hungry, couldn't remember how to grocery shop or dial a phone. She had to set her the alarm on her watch to remind her it was time to eat. Before that she was literally starving to death because she didn't know she was hungry. It was only after serious weight loss and fainting that the doctors realized she lost her sense of hunger.

What she was left with, however, was the ability to see auras. I suppose that sounds very "new age" and reeks of women in long flowing gowns, draped in clunky semi-precious and precious jewels that represented their chakras, reading tarot cards, and casting spells. Karen was not like that and she took umbrage at being compared to pseudo psychics. She showed up to work every day in her business suit, wearing closed toe pumps, flesh toned hose, and blouses that were buttoned up to her neck. Her long blond hair was pulled back into a neat, low, pony tail, and her gaze was direct and her smile, when given, was sincere. The only difference was that she could look at you and see fogs of colors swirling around you and the colors had meaning. She could look into your heart and know your character.

Colors had positive and negative aspects and it was only if you had situational knowledge that you could know the color's significance. Without even being aware, we speak intuitively of color's meanings. For example, green was a nurturer or a healer; it could also mean someone who was "green with envy;" red meant passion or anger as in "seeing red" ; blue was peace but it could also mean depression, "feeling blue." And black had only one meaning, evil, a soul devoid of any light.

She could see if a person had guardian angels or spirits about them. She could see into the future. She saw past lives, but because it went against every religious precept she was taught, she reviled the idea of past and future lives and refused to lift the curtain to see what was there. She would become physically ill if images appeared in her mind.

"It's a burden to know so much about people," she emphasized to me. "I don't want to know how shallow and mean people are or how they are not living up to their potential if they only had the courage to follow their dreams. God must cry every day. There is nothing I can do with this knowledge. It is too painful and too awful to bear. I don't want it. I want the doorway that gives me this ability to close and never open again. I don't care what else I have to forget as long as I don't have to have this anymore." She gave me a woeful look. "Your angels, or spirits, or whatever you want to call them, talk to you all the time and are frustrated that you don't listen."

"I don't know how to listen, and I'm not sure I want to learn to hear what they're saying. Don't want a chorus of angels telling me what a screw up I am. I think that's why God made my mother," I quipped.

Karen, undeterred, pressed her point. "Wait, you need to know something important. You have an angel over your shoulder who wants you to know something."

"I don't want to know that I'm going to Hell. I'd rather wait and let that be a surprise."

"One of your other angels is laughing. He says he's the one who shares your weird sense of humor." Karen looked beyond me, nodded and smiled at nothing. (I know because I turned to see what she was looking at.) Nothing there that I could see anyway.

"OK, I'll listen and if it's something I like, then I'll think you're right. If it's something I don't like, I'll think you're making it up."

"It's a lesson you need to learn."

I felt my resistance rising.

"Don't shut me out," Karen admonished. "You need to hear this. Do you believe that God blesses us?"

"Yes, of course."

"Do you think He's like Santa Claus and makes personal visits to everyone's house?"

"Well....sort of. I don't think He wears a red suit or has a long white beard, though I could be wrong about the beard. I think He says "let there be light" and the lights come on. I think He answers prayers. Don't tell me He has a prayer committee."

Karen smiled. "Your angels are laughing again. They want me to hurry up and get to the point. Okay. Sometimes God uses people to bless others. Do you know what I mean by that?"

"Baptism? Confession?"

"Quit being a smart-mouth." Karen crossed her legs and faced me straight on, looking grim and proper. "No, let's say you needed $5,000 and you won $5,000 in the lottery. Would you say that you were blessed and would you accept it?"

"Of course! Are you telling me I'm winning $5,000?"

She ignored the question. "Let's say you needed $5,000 and your mother offered you $5,000 and you knew that it was important to her to give it to you would you accept it?"

"Probably not. I know how hard she would've worked to save it, all the sacrifices she made to be able to offer it. She's worked hard her entire life; her life has been difficult at best. I want her to enjoy her money and to do something that's important to her. No way could I take her money. I'd find another way."

Karen nodded in understanding. "You would turn it down, knowing full well how much she wanted to give it to you and how important it was to her that you accept it?"

"Absolutely. No way could I accept that kind of money from my mother."

Did it occur to you that God might be using your mother as His envoy or courier to bless you? And now you have turned away His blessing and gift? Also did it ever occur to you that when someone tries to do something nice for you, it may not be about you but it may be that they have to be a blessing to others so that they can be blessed in return. By turning them down you are postponing a blessing that they might need."

"I can't possibly accept every gift that someone tries to give me. I don't have the means to return the favor. It's much easier for me to thank someone for their kindness and not have that feeling of obligation."

"You're not supposed to accept every gift that comes your way. Not every so-called gift is from God. You have to have your eyes open to see the difference." Karen shifted in her seat. "Your angel is saying that when it's right you need to learn and develop a sense of gratitude and graciousness." Karen looked hazily past me again. "Not everyone expects something in return you know." Sometimes people just want the good feeling that comes with being kind or generous or knowing that they've somehow helped a friend, or maybe they are repaying a debt by helping you. But by refusing them you are not allowing them to advance spiritually. Also you're telling God that His blessings aren't good enough for you."

"Maybe," I said as noncommittally as I could.

Karen smiled. "And then sometimes you have to gift in return because you are supposed to provide the greater good. It's confusing. That's all I know."

That conversation took place years ago, and it's one I've long remembered and thought on. I've since switched jobs a half dozen times perhaps, meeting new people, making new friends. At my current job I have a friend named Sharon. Sharon is a Gardener. We are talking a couple acres (or more!) of gorgeous flowering plants that she tends with a loving eye. Flowers of all kinds everywhere blooming everywhere.

She came to work one day, and said, "I have too many flowers. They are crowding each other out. I'm digging them up to thin them out. Do you want them? If you don't take them, I'm throwing them away." She is very direct and succinct like that.

Well, if she's throwing them away.... "Oh, I'd love them! I've been wanting flowers for the house since I bought it. I buy one or two plants a year, but my flower "garden" seems to be confined to window boxes."

"Bring your Jeep. We'll fill it up."

Silly me, I thought she was exaggerating, but I should have known better. By the time she stuffed my Jeep full of plants, (roses, phlox, iris, heather, bee balm, clematis, lamb's ear, to name a few) there was barely room for me to sit in the front seat. I couldn't see out of any of the side windows and I was being stuck in the back of my head with rose stems. My car smelled earthy and flowery and heavenly.

For the longest time I had envisioned flowers growing in my yard, and now, Sharon has blessed me with her kindness and generosity. She says I did her a favor by accepting the plants.


  1. My goodness Katy...this is a 'plum full' post today! I find it so very hard to accept 'gifts', praise, know what I mean? I used to think it was humility...and I'd like to think it is still somewhat. But I believe sometimes when we don't are your friend is denying a blessing all around...for the giver too.. I know this for a reason. I have a person in my life who is very difficult to 'love'...not that I need to love this person but I need to like catch my drift. Anyway...I have decided (and it is two years nearly now) to simply offer a compliment verbally or otherwise to this individual every day....finding something good in this person....every day. VERY HARD at first....but you know what....I have been so blessed by it that I have found that I really do like this person. Now where was I going with this...oh....I first, this person just sniffed at me when I said kind was hard...and there was no blessing back...believe me! But now, it is a wonderful gift exchange in the morning.... finding good, she acknowledging....a gift exchange and a blessing. have met the most interesting individuals in your life. are indeed in the right place at the right time my dear friend.

  2. I am so fortunate to have met some of the people I have met. I have learned important lessons without knowing, at the time, how important they were.

    I have been reflecting on your wise words that I meet people for a reason being that I can share my experiences. I think you are absolutely right. I have not understood this until you said the words out loud to me and I could feel my heart lift and lighten with the truth. See what a grand gift you have given me! Gifts are not always material I have learned over and over again.

    Praise is difficult for me to accept as well. I look at what I do and think I could have done better. Have you ever read the "Joy Luck Club." Some sections of that story is as if it were about the relationship between me and my mother.

    I forget what tradition practices this (Hindu? I cannot recall with certainty) but I learned this long ago and have practiced it with a difficult-to-me person. When facing the difficult person, I say a silent prayer, "I bless the spirit within you." I have yet to see it fail to make a positive difference in the other person. Even the most mean person to me has softened to at least civility.

    The words want to pour out of me tonight. I should write another post, grins.

  3. you go girl...write out the wisdom from within...

  4. I see I have to come back here until I finish reading. How did you learn to write so beautifully?