Ever been let down by a less-than-appreciative thank you, or worse, complete indifference, after doing a good deed for someone? I’ve not only experienced good-deed frustration, I’ve caused it a time or two. Giving and receiving are connected by tricky invisible strings of intention and expectation.
My 11 year-old son, Jack, recently experienced good-deed frustration after spending 3 ½ hours preparing food for our small family Super Bowl party. He made meatballs, an Italian Hero, sliders, pigs-in-a-blanket, and a chocolate cake. Yes, he made everything himself; I assisted only with advice and cleanup. It was grueling work. His hands froze kneading the meatball ingredients together and his feet and legs were sore from standing so long rolling meatballs so that he could serve them bite-sized on toothpicks.
Jack and I were alone during all the cooking; no one else witnessed the amount of work, determination, and love that went into all that food. He was very proud of his accomplishment because it was so much more than a table full of party food; it was his way of demonstrating how much he loved us.
Intention and Expectation
Well, as it happened, his older brother came home as we finished. Michael (13) walked into the kitchen, made a joke and untied Jack’s apron. Jack’s disappointment was heartbreaking because he expected “Wow!” and maybe a few, “You did all of this all by yourself? Amazing!” and certainly several, “Thank yous!” To Jack, Michael’s prank felt like his love had been marginalized and it got him angry. Jack kept saying, “That’s it? You don’t appreciate anything! I made this wonderful feast and this is how you repay me?” Both Michael and Jack were taken by surprise.
After tempers cooled, both boys realized a thing or two about about giving and receiving:
- Make sure you understand the true gift you’re giving; it may not be the object you hand over.
o Jack hadn’t realized he was giving love wrapped up as meatballs.
- Make sure to communicate openly so that your good deeds are recognized.
o Michael didn’t understand the essence of Jack’s good deeds.
- “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Choose wisely so that your valuable gifts are given to those who can recognize the value.
o Michael shows love in other ways and missed Jack’s subtle cues.
- Call it like it is. If you expect something for something it’s a trade not a gift. Avoid frustration by getting agreement before the exchange.
o Tricky unless you know how to ask others for what you need.
- You get what you give—it just might come from a different person. Be sure that to connect all the gifts you receive elsewhere to your actions everywhere.
o Both boys became aware of gifts they receive that are seemingly unrelated to many of their good deeds. They also connected times they are unappreciative that result in receiving fewer gifts.
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How many of you would like to hear your child, partner, co-worker, employer, or customer tell you, “Oh, I get it now. I didn’t realize how much work it is to (blank.) I’m going to appreciate it so much more the next time you do it for me, thank you.” Share ways we can create awareness in the people to whom we give.