On this page and others, we write plenty about good deeds in the suburbs. This is especially true during the holidays, when people's thoughts naturally turn to giving to others. It seems as if everywhere we go, we're invited to contribute cash, food, toys, our time -- and that's in addition to the presents we already give to friends and family. Somehow we manage to find extra change or volunteer a couple of hours because of our desire to help. Besides, it feels good to do so.
But when it comes to accepting offers of service or gifts from others, some of us are a little more reluctant. Why is that? Maybe we don't want someone to be bothered, or we feel we're a burden.
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Or perhaps it's simply pride -- we can handle our needs ourselves, thank-you-very-much.
Whatever the reason, it's important to remember that each time we deny others a chance to give, we are denying the benefits to them, ourselves and our larger community.
We learn from an early age that it feels good to help. Children understand this from the time they can fetch a diaper from the other room while Mommy changes the baby. An adult who shovels the walk of a neighbor feels pretty good afterward. despite the sore back. And there's joy in shopping in a crowded mall for a family you've "adopted" for Christmas.
Science backs up this idea, as we wrote in our editorial at the start of the giving season that focused on small acts of service. True giving, researchers say, sets in motion hormones in our brain that burst into warm, positive feelings.
Humans naturally desire to be useful and to feel needed, and by allowing others to serve us we are ensuring them a bit of joy they might otherwise not have.
That's not even to mention the benefits we receive personally when aided by someone we know or don't know. The occasions when a friend or a stranger gave us a lift often stand out in our memories. During these times, humility turns to thankfulness.
There is, as the saying goes in Ecclesiastes, a season for everything -- and that includes a time to serve and a time to be served. Just as speaking needs listening, the giving and receiving are complementary.
Any community -- whether it be a family, a neighborhood, the office, a classroom or an entire town -- benefits when gifts of time and goods are received well. The more we accept them the stronger the individual bonds become, and the stronger those bonds, the stronger the group.
This is the day when Christians let Earth receive her King. The one who was laid in a manger would later tell his followers that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." Implied is that there must be giving and receiving. Christmas is a special time for both. Let us serve and be served graciously, give and receive gratefully. As we do, the richness of our communities, large and small, will deepen.