Thoughts on learning to receive gracefully.

On Sunday, I played the piano again at our local shopping mall. I had promised to stand in for the usual pianist, so although I wasn’t supposed to put in my contact lenses until after seeing the eye doctor tomorrow, I’m afraid I cheated, and did. It’s been awful this past week, trying to manage with specs I’m not used to, but with the antibiotics, the eye infection seems to have cleared up.

There were many shoppers, and I really enjoyed playing for them.



Quite a few people stopped to say “thank you for the beautiful music,” and I was feeling so good, until something happened which really threw me. An elderly man came up to the piano, smiled at me and thanked me. He then bent down and put a R10 note on the stool next to me. I was so taken aback that I stopped playing, snatched it up and tried to give it back to him, saying, “No, no, you mustn’t do that. I do get paid for playing here.” I must tell you that he didn’t look at all well off, in fact quite the opposite. We had quite a tussle with this R10, but he absolutely refused to take it back, and pressed it firmly into my hand. “I want you to have it because you play with such care, and I so appreciate that,” he said. When he eventually walked away, I felt quite shaken and had difficulty getting back into my playing, as I was feeling so bad about taking his money.

I kept wondering if I should just have just accepted it gracefully and thanked him, instead of feeling so awkward about the whole episode. I hoped that I hadn’t diminished his joy of giving, by my unwillingness to accept his thank you gift. I wondered if he was disappointed at my reaction, and it was on my mind for the rest of the day, and as you can see by this post, I’m still thinking about it.

I remember many years ago, a sweet old lady came past, and put a R2 coin on the piano, and I felt bad that she’d given me this money probably out of her pension. I know these are very small amounts I’m talking about, but I felt on both occasions that it was some sort of sacrifice on their part, and here was I with plenty of everything, being given money that they could maybe ill afford to part with.

I think we are usually taught that “it is better to give than to receive,” but are we ever instructed on how to graciously receive unexpected compliments, gifts, or unnecessary acts of kindness? If we learn to do this, we allow the giver to express themselves, and with a smile and a “thank you,” we honour their act of giving.Β  It’s possible to balance the acts of giving and receiving, so that both the giver and the receiver benefit equally, and I hope that I’ve learned my lesson, so that in future, I will be a good receiver. I will of course pass on that money to someone else in the very near future; pay it forward, as it were, and hope that they don’t throw it back at me. Embarassed

On a lighter note, I was just remembering how, when I was quite young, and was playing one evening in a very up-market restaurant, a business man who was entertaining clients, sent over a request for “Tea for two,” together with a R200 note, and his business card with his phone number underlined. I played the request, accepted the money, but sent back his card with the waiter. Wink

Have a great day everyone. Chat again soon.



34 comments on “Thoughts on learning to receive gracefully.

  1. Saying ‘yes’ to a gift is gracious. Saying ‘no’ I don’t want your gift is not gracious. I learned this the hard way when I, ignorantly, tried to refuse a generous gift from my (starving student) nephew who said to me ” Auntie, you are not the only one who gets to give”.

  2. Lovely post, AD. I would have felt, and acted (probably), the same as you… Never mind. I think older folk appreciate things more than the young uns!

  3. I wonder what was on the businessman’s mind,typical man.
    The R10 was given out of love,God bless him. Nice foto πŸ™‚

    • Hmmm…. yes, I knew what he was up to, so he deserved what he got, or in this case, didn’t get. πŸ˜‰ Yes, that dear old man was so sweet. I hope I didn’t upset him.

  4. What a great story. First, how awesome is it that you play the piano…awesome. I attempted to learn in elementary school, but then I just stuck to the violin. I know some people that are like that…you know, always shy about receiving … but me? I’m always grateful when good things happen, because they don’t happen often. I don’t know what an R10 is but it’s good that you’re paying it forward πŸ™‚

    • I’m really glad that I learned to play piano when I was young. It has brought me so much joy. I will in future accept all gifts thankfully and without embarrassment. It’s so much less stressful. πŸ˜‰

  5. Age brings the ability to accept generosity. I take things now that I would never have done in my youth and am thankful for the gesture. Important to accept that lovely gift – there are so few.

  6. Yes, it’s akward indeed and even I don’t know what I would have done but I think you handled it great AD. Lovely photo hon. πŸ™‚

  7. I’m glad your eye is doing better,my friend,glad you’re feeling better πŸ™‚

    That must have been hard,accepting it,I can fully imagine. This is my 2 cents’ worth and only that,but maybe like you said,pay it forward…accept it gracefully,and have ready someone in need,or a good chrity to put it into? That’s what I think I would do anyways πŸ™‚

    The DC

  8. I can imagine how you felt ad and how awkward it must have felt. This reminded me of when I was much younger and didn’t have too much money, I was standing at a traffic light, it was freezing, I had a skirt on with no pantihose – whilst waiting for the light to go green a lady came up to me and asked me if she could buy me a pair of pantihose because I looked so cold. I was so ashamed, embarrassed…the more I said no the more she insisted that it would warm me up. I eventually walked away crying… She meant well and I probably upset her, but I just didn’t want anything from anyone.

    • Reading your story, Hopestar, it was as though I were you standing there. I can imagine how you must have felt, and I think this woman’s kindness was misplaced, and would have embarrassed even someone much less sensitive than yourself. I’m sure she meant well though. Hugs xx

  9. haha I know just how you feel. Xmas a couple of years ago I was sitting in my wheelchair in a mall, waiting for my wife when a child of about ten came up, gave me a hug and put R5.00 in my hand. I was too stunned to say anything.

  10. This is so true AD.
    I had the same thing once – helped a guy at work buy a bunch of computers. He paid for it, but insisted on giving me a thank you gift. Just a bottle of flavoured water, but I kept on saying he did not have to do this – felt like a bit of a bribe to me. He took me to task, telling me that it’s his way of saying thank you for helping him, and by not accepting the gift in the spirit it was given in.
    To this day I really try and just say thank you, even if I really don’t quite know what it’s for, or why they would do it for me.
    Suppose it’s something we have to accept, and we just have to get over our own issuse to accept it as is…

  11. That was quite something, AD. I see something similar with tipping the carguards at my one shopping centre. Older people with little to spare give a tip (no matter how small) but the yuppies leave without so much as a thank you.
    P.S. Had you met C already that you refused the businessman’s not-so-subtle approach??

  12. Phew I would have felt bad accepting the R10 too. Perhaps to avoid further embarrassment the shopping centre could place a nicely designed notice on the piano letting people know that they are paying the pianist. Better wording than that is obviously required.

    • Well I think that the absence of a “tip jar,” should make it obvious enough, optie. Isn’t it strange that it’s the old and needy folk who want to give, and not the young and affluent?

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