Open Hands and Clenched FistsMonday, April 23, 2012
A friend of mine recently chatted with an acquaintance, who began talking about what a hit her cookies were at the school bake sale. My friend, just making conversation, supposed that the women who raved about the cookies might like to have the recipe. The other woman responded as if my friend had asked for the deed to her car. The recipe, it turned out, was a secret family recipe she had gotten from her grandmother. She would never share it. Never.
Well, okay. I mean, if you have a secret recipe, by all means, keep it secret. Of course, that probably means you shouldn't start conversations about your cookies and intimate that a single taste would drive French pastry chefs mad with desire. You're begging someone to ask you for the recipe--just so you can wave it, clenched in your tight little fist, and say, "MINE!"
I've never understood that mentality. Where does it get you? Sure, you might score some buzz at bake sale time ("Ooh, I wonder if Mary Lou is bringing her famous snickerdoodles?") Maybe you get a little admiration for your baking skills, and possibly a little envy from the less-skilled. Admiration is nice. But I'd rather be admired for my kindness and generous spirit, quite frankly. And if someone envies me for a recipe, that doesn't means I'm a better person than she is; it means I'm lousy at sharing.
The way I see it, there are two ways to go through life: with clenched fists, or with open hands. If you have something, and you tighten your grip on it, nobody can take it from you. That's the good news. The bad news is that your hand isn't available to receive anything else--and depending on what you're holding, you could destroy it with your death grip.
Please understand: I am not a generous person by nature. I've been fortunate in my life, and I have wanted for little. But I've always had a fear that if I gave up some of what I had, I might not have enough. A funny thing happened, though: every time I took a chance and gave--money, time, advice, help, support, whatever--I wound up with more than I started with. Curiously, the more cheerfully I give, the more bountifully I seem to receive. That neighbor whose kid I watched after school as a favor? She's the one who raced to my house in the middle of the night to stay with mine when I had to take my husband to the ER. The friend for whom I made a casserole one night because I know she hates to cook crocheted me a soft scarf that has warmed me for years.
As nice as it is to have favors returned, something even better comes from giving with an open hand and heart. Relationships grow. Somebody gives, somebody takes, and then gives back, or gives to someone else. The threads of our giving connect us, like those cat's cradles we used to make with yarn and our best friend's hands when we were little. If you closed your hands and refused to play, all you had was a little length of yarn, not good for much. But if you faced your friend and both spread your fingers wide, your hands would be linked together in the most beautiful patterns.
by resident writer Becki King of "Adventures of a Nervous Girl"