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Receiving Graciously
December 22, 2010 6:09 am | by

I have a bit of a confession to make here, I haven’t always been the most gracious person when presented with a gift.

There is one time in particular that sticks out in my mind. Five or six years ago during the holiday season, my family received an unexpected knock at our door. It was about a week before Thanksgiving and a local church was distributing holiday meals to families “in need”.
My memory is fuzzy, it was either the year we had three boys under the age of two, or the year all our sons were less than 3 years old and we had just discovered we were expecting baby number 4. Either way, things were tight, but very few people knew just how tight they were. To this day, I have no idea how we landed on their list. We didn’t attend the church and couldn’t name a single person we knew that was aware of our situation that might have turned us in.
The guests were kind, brought the food in and with my husband’s assistance, carried the turkey with all the trimmings to our kitchen. I’m pretty sure I took a child or two and pretended to be busy, changing a diaper. I was embarrassed and on the verge of angry. How could anyone think we were needy? Who would put our names on one of those lists? Thankfully, my husband was gracious and thankful, maybe it was because he’d had more sleep than I. The strangers said a quick prayer and were on their way.
The tremendous blessing of that turkey was revealed a few days later when family unexpectedly dropped in at a mealtime along their own holiday road trip. We had food enough for everyone, which wouldn’t have happened without the gift from the church. We had a lovely, stress free holiday meal with lots of laughter.
In the years since, I’ve regretted my ungrateful, prideful attitude. I wish I would have had better behavior that night, despite how I felt at the time. That meal made such a positive impact on our family that for the last two years my husband and I have trimmed our personal grocery budget and used holiday bonuses to donate holiday meals to other families through a similar program here in St. Louis. Our children think it’s a lot of fun, but have no idea why it is so important to mommy and daddy to buy groceries to donate to other families.
All those years ago, I assumed people just gave because they felt sorry for the “less fortunate”, but never did I think that maybe they had personally been in a similar place and received a blessing from someone else. Now I understand that many who give to programs like these have themselves been a recipient at some point in time. They give because they truly understand what a positive difference it can make for a family. They know first hand that meeting a need can take a great deal of stress off a family.
Truthfully, I think many families struggle at some point, especially young families. There are a lot of expenses that go with having a baby and often times one little bump in the road, like a job loss, medical expense or major car repair, makes it difficult to recover financially.
What I now realize is that someone who knew us and likely had survived life with three very young children just wanted to bless us. Thankfully, not even my poor attitude kept me from receiving that blessing, even if it took me a few days to realize what a blessing it was.
That experience, and a few years of maturity, have revealed to me how important it is to be gracious when presented with a gift. Whether it’s the ugliest hand knit acrylic sweater from your color blind aunt, a plastic battery operated toy from your mother who knows you don’t purchase toys made in China or a turkey given without warning as an act of charity, it’s important to be gracious when receiving a gift.
Share with us your story of how you graciously received an unexpected gift or you received an unexpected blessing.

About the Author

Heather is mom to four, born within 40 months (single, twins, single). She writes transparently about her chaotic household to encourage others through the twists and turns of parenting.



  • Jill said...
    December 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I think you learned the spirit of giving and receiving, which is what is important. One year I was laid off for a while (you can only work as a temp for 90 days without being ‘re’ instituted), and a lady I worked with brought me in a bag of frozen meat from one of their cows. She thought that we could use some extra meat in the freezer and it made it a bit easier on us until I was rehired, luckily at a full time position. At the time, my husband was in college and trying to get work hours in besides. We weren’t exactly strained, because we lived on campus and used student loans to pay for housing, but we did need the money my paycheck provided for groceries. I told her thank you several times and was really pleased to have it. It was a ‘no nonsense’ gift that I could really understand, it was less charity than a friendly, ‘hey we have some extra, here you go’ versus the drop off from a church group.

    I know my own parents occasionally got envelopes with some cash in them from their church when we were small, someone would shake their hand and leave it there and not say a word.

  • dannyscotland said...
    December 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    What a beautiful post. I hope that you will be able to forgive yourself someday. I am certain that the church members understood completely. You have certainly shown by your actions how grateful you were and continue to be, and I think that means a LOT more than just saying thank you. You are showing it every time you help provide food to someone else. And that is exactly what a church group would want.

  • JLo said...
    December 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    I’ve spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself this year going through my son’s very stressful medical crisis, wondering where all the charity was when I needed it, but it only took the realization that I would get to take my son home after his surgery to wake me up to how lucky I am. Sadly I’m still not in a position to give to any of these people, but I’ve definitely realized that I don’t need to receive like they need to.

  • Heidi said...
    December 22, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Very well said. I appreciate how you wrote with such humility and thankfulness. Four years ago my brothers were in a car accident that killed one of them and left the other in the hospital with severe burns for two weeks (but he’s fine now, thank the Lord). It was the day before Thanksgiving. A family who we had known about 10 years ago showed up at the hospital with a HUGE thanksgiving meal for us. It had everything, turkey, ham mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, pies, etc. And they told us to just keep the dishes. They just left it at the nurses’ station so as not to disturb us. It touched our hearts so much and we ate it for days while we were there with my brother. It was such a blessing to not have to worry about bringing food at such a tragic time. The family who brought us the meal had lost a daughter a few years before, and so I guess they just understood what we were going through. It touched me so much and I will never forget it. I hope I can give to others like they gave to us!

  • Brooke said...
    December 22, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I have a somewhat similar story. Although, we were not as gracious as you were and I am now wondering if we should have been. My husband works at a church and I stay at home with our 1 year old and I am about to pop any day with number 2. This year at thanksgivng one of the church’s sunday school classes collected everything for a thanksgiving meal, they just didn’t know who to give it to. My husband’s boss decided to offer it to us. Instead of accepting the dinner graciously he turned it down and said he was sure that there was another family who needed it much more than we did. At the time I was furious. My husband’s work had just admitted that they did not pay him enough for us to afford a thanksgiving meal. And just to be clear: my husband works at one of the richest churches in our area and this is an on-going issue for me because he is more than qualified. (something I really need to cope with better.) Now, looking back I wish we would have taken it-we could have used those leftovers, and you are right-just because the church is one of the wealthiest in the area doesn’t mean that others that are apart of the church haven’t struggled in their past and want to pass on their blessings to others. Even though I hope next year we won’t be in the position to be offered a thanksgiving meal, if we are I think we will accept it graciously.

  • Courtney Fisk said...
    December 22, 2010 at 11:20 am

    One year ago some friends invited us for dinner. In the middle of dinner they gave us their minivan. Is was such an answer to prayer- pregnant with number 3 in the middle of winter. Our life changed so much from that one gesture. One year later we are still using that van!

  • Amanda said...
    December 22, 2010 at 11:01 am

    It may be a little different than your story, but its what I would like to tell. Some background : my parents were deadbeats, I was raised by my grandmother, who became ill in my teenage years. We were friends with this couple, who at the time were in their 40s. They hadn’t been able to have kids, so it was just the 2 of them. They took me under my wing and became like my parents. My grandmother passed a couple of months before I got married, and they bought my wedding dress, paid for a large portion of my wedding, and everything they have done since is too much to write at the moment. But it was all nothing ‘owed’ to me, it was from the kindness of their hearts. Now I have 2 kids under 2, and they have their ‘nana and tata’ who are always there. The love from a couple who were once strangers to me is overwhelming, and it took a long time to be gracious, and realize that if they were blood related I wouldn’t fret as much about what they do for us, but that that really doesn’t matter. Just because I’m legally not theirs, doesn’t mean they aren’t my ‘parents’. I am so grateful for them, this unexpected blessing of parents, and now grandparents .:-)