When I was pregnant with Georgia, some dear people threw me a baby shower. I was delighted to celebrate the miracle growing inside of me with my friends and family, but the whole ‘gift’ thing made me so uncomfortable. It felt unnatural to have everyone gather around me with brightly wrapped packages of useful items intended for someone none of us had met. Even though it was fun to be surrounded by all of that love, I would have gladly skipped the whole thing and just paid for all of the baby items myself. Not because I wasn’t grateful, but because it just felt weird. I felt similarly about wedding presents, but at least I didn’t have to open them in front of people.
Those gifts, though, became memories. I still think of Elisa when I put the freshly washed floral sheet on Flora’s crib. But I also remember each of my babies round cheeks smashed against that soft fabric, their fuzzy head framed by flowers. Whenever I size-up the clothes for Flora, I spend an hour folding clothes and putting them in the dresser in a wave of nostalgia as I remember what the other girls did in those clothes; she wore that at the parade, she wore that when she took her first steps, she always picked that one out. Sometimes I pull out pictures to compare all three girls in the same outfit. I am amazed that I remember who had originally picked out almost everything. To see the givers unique choice of style on my child makes me smile. It’s a beautiful thing to clothe your babies in the love of others.
Since then, we’ve become the beneficiaries of another type of gift: Hand-Me-Downs. Clothing, household items, art supplies, decorations, clothes, bikes, furniture, even extra garden vegetables and PLANTS! With shocking regularity, a box or an item will arrive at our home with a casual “I thought maybe you could use this!” And you know what? We totally can. Sometimes its something we really needed and I’d been budgeting for. Sometimes its something we wanted but didn’t have the extra cash for. And sometimes its something that wasn’t even on our radar, but becomes a necessity or a treasured item.
Since January, I’ve been working so hard on our budget. I’ve been counting every penny we spend on day to day living so that we could save up for certain big projects. When these items show up at my house, I get a lump in my throat. I feel seen and loved. Not only by the giver, but by God. He has put us in their hearts and minds and strengthened a bond. They make us feel like we’re doing them a favor by giving new life to their object that was simply taking up space. But For me, I feel like we are being subsidized by love.
The financial benefit is huge. But even more than that, I get the greatest joy by looking around my house and seeing evidence of the good people in our lives.
When I water the plants, I see Aunt Ginny’s hostas, Connie’s ice plant, Heidi’s blue spruce sedum, TONS of Jodi’s plants, Rose’s violets…
When I look in the garage I see bikes from RJ’s colleague Nicole, a cozy coupe from my brother, wiggle cars from Jan, a storage cubby from Jill…
When I look in my home I see decorations from Barb, a slide from the Shaws, a crib from Sadie, hand-me-down China from RJ’s grandmas, original paintings, even sheets from Val’s aunt…
In every single room of my house there are items that represent GENEROSITY. Even things that aren’t things! I can walk through the house and see how friends and family have served me in my home. Each month, the girls and I have a great time writing thank you notes to someone, but I don’t think they have any idea that truly, they are surrounded by, sometimes fed by, and often clothed in, the goodness of others.
Part of me feels bad that I’m not in a position to give to others in the same way that we currently receive. But I want to live every day in a way that shows gratitude for what we’ve been given, and that gives in a way that I can right now. It may not be hand-me-downs at this stage – but perhaps I can give a kind word, or a baked good, or if nothing else, a heart full of thanks.