On a beautiful sunny afternoon in Vancouver, I was riding my bike to the bus station. I was on my way to catch a bus that would transport me and my bike to the ferry terminal. I had just spent the weekend with good friends and was happy about the unexpected warm weather.
As I stopped at a red traffic light a man, who looked like a homeless person, walked towards me with a bunch of daffodils in his hand. I guess he had picked them in a nearby park. As he came closer, he extended his hand with the bouquet towards me, smiled a toothless smile and walked on. I only had a moment to receive the flowers and express my gratitude. I was touched by the unexpected act of kindness, especially coming from someone who seemed to possess so little.
As I sat on the bus, the daffodils in my hand, another passenger struck up a conversation with me. I shared how I received the flowers and that I wanted to enjoy them as much as I could while they lasted. She taught me a trick to revive flowers: You fully submerge them in water and let them soak over night. I was filled with gratitude and eager to follow her advice.
When I arrived at my home in Victoria several hours later, I soaked the wilted daffodils in my sink. The next morning they had indeed perked up and lasted for a few more days in a vase on my table.
I was still filled with gratitude and joy when I shared my recent experience with a friend.
To my surprise, my friend was most touched by the joy and gratitude I received from these small acts of kindness. Up to that point, I had not given this aspect of my story much thought. I simply couldn’t have imagined another way to respond. However, I recognize now that without me receiving these gifts, the whole experience would have been meaningless.
Unfortunately there is a widespread myth that giving is nobler than receiving. For many people this makes receiving difficult. However, giving and receiving really are equal partners. If you have ever given a gift, a compliment or an act of kindness that was not well received, you know what I am talking about. It takes the joy out of giving. As Veronique Vienne put it aptly, “receiving requires as much generosity as giving.” I encourage you to stretch your receiving-muscle more often.
Three keys to receiving generously and with gratitude:
- Notice your urge to reciprocate or deflect when you have been given something (a compliment, a gift, an act of kindness, a smile).
- Instead of following your urge, take a moment to fully receive the gift. Allow yourself to feel the joy and gratitude.
- Then take a moment to notice the positive impact your joy has on the giver. Receiving fully is a gift in itself.
Every day we have countless opportunities to receive kindness from the people around us with gratitude. It makes the world of a difference when you do!
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Julia James is a certified life coach and award-winning author of the book, The Mini-Retreat Solution. With over ten years experience coaching people through positive career transformations, Julia is passionate about helping people connect with their true calling.