If Gratitude Were Horses, We'd Never Fear A Stampede

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a contemplation on gifts and giving. I read Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on gifts when I was in high school, and it has stayed with me all these years. Emerson definitely had his moments as an essayist.


“The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


The gift is always some sort of recrimination,
At least this is the way I see it.
The gift tells what you think of me,
Or whether, indeed, you think of me.
Upon receipt, I am immediately filled
With guilt, shame, anger, sadness or—
Most likely—unworthiness,
At least for gifts from you.
Others may give gifts that
Only reaffirm my deeply held
Belief that I may not be worth
The second thought required
For a gift, but you are different,
Are you not?

And it should be easier to give than receive,
But what is it like to be too painfully
Aware that a thoughtless gift
Will make someone feel
Unworthy of thought, of value?
Paralyzed by caution, we givers
Fail ourselves and our fellow humans
Regularly. If only we’d had more time,
The gift would have been better.
A gift receipt is included, in case
You don’t like it.


“We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

◄ Accepting an Infinite Regression of Causes

On the Destructive Power of Measureable Learning Objectives ►


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Randy Horton

Sun 7th Apr 2019 19:22

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments. I really appreciate the feedback.


Sun 7th Apr 2019 18:32

I am reminded of a scene in a movie where a nun is refusing sustenance to a member of a leper colony because he hadn't attended the latest mass--seems that, truly, nothing comes for free.

"Beware the man who comes bearing gifts"--he should be regarded with the same caution as the guy who comes into your home and tells you he's not a thief even though he was neither asked nor accused.

Sorry, Randy. I probably shouldn't blather on to a complete stranger, but it's clear that you've put much thought into the matter. And, you've also sparked some curiosity about Emerson's essay--sounds like a good way to end a Sunday evening.


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M.C. Newberry

Sun 7th Apr 2019 14:00

Giving - like receiving - can be a minefield! Let's look at "giving" -
from those resembling Ebenezer Scrooge to the other extreme,
the giver who seems intent on showing HOW generous they are,
inviting the suspicion that they are in some sort of competition with
other givers...especially at Christmas or on birthdays, a sort of
family-orientated keepsy-upsy of a "Clearly, I think more of you t
than they do" sort of inference.
Receiving can be nearly as fraught. We've all been on
the end of gifts that are inappropriate to our known interests or
tastes, excusable perhaps from those we seldom see or hear from, but that situation would surely indicate that a card would be
adequate/acceptable as a "thinking of you" communication.
In a general sense, perhaps modern consumerism has much to
answer for - with its pressures to buy and thus be appreciated!.

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Sun 7th Apr 2019 09:38

Great poem - I was really drawn in by the fabulous title - and it didn't disappoint!

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