On a day when the sun shines, someone ahead of me at a metro station holds the door, and the day brightens further.
Later, a five year old at the corner store extends her bag of sticky candies and offers them with a bonus, her incandescent smile.
When I thank the neighbor who shovels our building's steps, he says "Bienvenue, madame!", the first word vernacular Québec French for "You're welcome". (No, he is not welcoming me to the city.)
Tiny courtesies and favours stoke a quiet glow of goodwill. I fall asleep thinking, That was a good day.
The next day, I invite a friend to lunch and after we enjoy our sandwiches, as I pay the cheque, she says, "I'll leave the tip." My glow flickers. Why, I wonder, do women do this?
Mostly, I guess, because of an urge to contribute. However, this offer takes the charm off the gesture of treating someone, and results in a middling transaction, where neither party has given nor received wholly.
I ask if she would kindly accept that small treat in the manner in which it is given: unreservedly. She rolls her eyes and sighs, Ohhhkay. (I imagine, in a thought bubble over her head: Duchesse is touchy about the weirdest things!)
Another friend divides people into givers and takers, and says givers are uncomfortable when accepting favours. Behaviours at which women leaders excel—nurturing, giving back—are classic giver-qualities. I wonder, can we also take (when it is appropriate), without the shadow of unworthiness or undertow of obligation?
The ability to take also supports the ability to ask for what we need. And if we ask, but then cannot accept? Now that is a bind. Although we can't choose those moments when someone gives, we can develop our comfort with receiving, with gratitude. That behaviour is especially challenging as we grow older. Protective of independence, some elders reflexively refuse any kind of help, and then, as the offers dwindle, realize they are bereft.
Sometimes a friend, a stranger, or the universe will offer us a little goody. Take it! Soon enough, it will be our turn to give, and one day we will need more help than we ever thought. Let's prepare by relaxing our fierce, false front of independence, at least in small, sweet moments.