It’s Better to Give…and Receive

Lisa Dunlap - West Chester, Ohio
As heard on the This I Believe Podcast, December 22, 2014
Lisa Dunlap

Like many of us, Lisa Dunlap had always heard the adage that it's better to give than to receive. But having been on the receiving end of many acts of kindness, Ms. Dunlap has come to believe that while it is indeed good to give, it's also good to receive.

Age Group: 30 - 50
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I’ve heard that it’s better to give than to receive. I’m here to tell you that receiving is highly underrated. How do I know this, you ask? I’ve been on both sides of the equation, and I can tell you that both have their special magic.

I was nine years old when my Dad moved out, and Mom moved us away. Luckily, the move took me, my mom, and my younger sister to the shelter of my grandparents, who ministered to our needs with meals, love, and transportation to and from a myriad of activities and lessons. I decided at that tender age, in my sorrow and loneliness and anger, that I had no choice but to become fiercely independent. I thought this was my only recourse when even my own parents had let me down, and if they couldn’t be trusted, no one could meet my needs. I’d have to become completely self-sufficient, needing no one.

Believe it or not, I got a little carried away. I became so efficient that I took care of everyone in my life, even when I was in worse shape than the people I was running around trying to please. Once in a while, though, someone would sneak up on me and do something for me at just the moment when it mattered.

Once, when I was a single parent, trying to finish college, work, and raise a child, I took my son to see Santa Claus. When he wanted to buy the picture that was taken, I opened my wallet, only to find that I didn’t have enough money. When I got to the checkout counter to decline the picture, I was told that someone in line ahead of me had seen me counting my change and had paid for the picture for me. Feeling very humbled, I rushed out, wanting to thank the person whose small kindness meant so much. I found not a soul in sight. I wanted to insist that I didn’t need this, that we really weren’t needy. I just didn’t have enough cash in my wallet on that particular day. I realized then, oh so humbly, that it’s okay. It’s okay to let someone do something for me, even if I could have done it myself.

In the ensuing years, I have been able to pay it forward as they say, many times, with my time, my money, or just a listening ear. And I have received the blessings of those whose acts of kindness and generosity have found me when I needed them most. I believe that we are all in this wonderful, messy world together, and it’s not about my strength and independence or how much I have. It’s about allowing the giver to be blessed when the gift is graciously received. For me, it’s about a long-lost little girl who is no longer alone. Now I know that giving and receiving are two halves of a whole, each incomplete without the other.

Lisa Dunlap lives in the Cincinnati area, and her two grown children live nearby. She enjoys photography, origami, and traveling, and she is a big believer in random acts of kindness and "paying it forward."

Recorded by Bruce Ellis at radio station WVXU in Cincinnati and produced for This I Believe by Dan Gediman