• Posted: Dec 23, 2007 23:43:55
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The sacrifices of loving parents for the joy of their children on special occasions like graduation, birthdays, and Christmas can be heart-wrenching. The magic of seeing dreams come true and feeling the overwhelming commitments of love expressed are palpable even by disinterested witnesses. My own father, a design engineer not a farmer or rancher, once braved chilling winds, slick crusted snow, and ice in darkness at four in the morning to coral and halter an extremely apprehensive palomino quarter-horse that I would later wake to find tethered in our backyard, saddle under the tree in our living room. That event left me with a feeling I cannot adequately describe, matched only by a similarly extraordinary expression of his love for me when I was married.
But I am not alone. Many children have felt what I have felt from their parents. There is certainly joy and magic in giving. And yet, it brings on profound sadness to realize many children and their parents in this world have never shared a comparable experience.
That said, probably the least discussed aspect of giving are the inevitable associated feelings of obligation that come with the practice. In many ways, to accept a gift is to accept an obligation either to the giver or to another receiver on down the line of ritual. Many times the obligation is not a material obligation but a moral one, an implicit contract to live up to certain expectations of behavior and accomplishment. And to fail in that obligation can bring on feelings of great shame and unworthiness. How many drunk, homeless, and belligerent souls out there have been consumed by such feelings? Not an insignificant number, I would expect.
But by what moral authority do givers extract and set such obligations, obligations that many times cannot realistically be met due to receiver's individual differences in ability, resources, other commitments, or intervening outside factors? For some, the act of giving is an act of calculated coercion, not a selfless expression of love or charity.
May we all be free of such people. May we all be free of such tendencies in ourselves.
Saturday, November 24th, 2007
34.1 mm 162 mm