Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On giving ... (part four) ...

This post might, perhaps, have been more accurately titled, "Great expectations".

When you 'gift' something, are you expecting something in return? If so, it then becomes a "conditional gift", does it not? In contemplation of some future event? What immediately comes to my mind is the 'gift' of an engagement ring. This is very much a conditional gift, the 'condition' being that both the recipient of the gift and the giver will 'seal the deal' in marriage. If the marriage does not occur, the conditional gift must - by law, at least in this country! - be returned.

In my first post "On giving", I wrote about NYC cab drivers being 'asked' to donate one day's tips - an estimated $15-20 each - to help support the family of a fellow driver. I raised some questions in this post ... questions that arose as a direct result of my having been a taxicab driver for many years.

In my second post of this series, published the very next day, I went on to describe in some detail various 'askings' that I had experienced both as a cab driver and a schoolteacher and how I felt about them.

(Part three) of the series focused more on how I would define myself as a 'giver' and went on to describe my feelings in two different, yet somewhat related, situations.

How would you classify gifts of time? With very few exceptions, I think they should be outright gifts with no expectation of a return other than self-satisfaction and feeling good about one's self. As I said in part three of this series, I don't expect accolades nor would I want them. A simple "thank you" goes a long long way with me. If you cannot bring yourself to utter those words, a single smile will do the trick.

But is an expression of gratitude mandatory? To give "expecting thanks" is to qualify the gift, I think. A 'contingent gift', as it were ... one that is dependent on something else to be worthwhile. A gift should be given, imo, w/o qualification ... else how can it truly be labeled a 'gift'?

To receive thanks after giving is icing on the cake. An expression I often use is 'a really warm fuzzy'.

What about material gifts? Property, for instance, or money? At one time in my life I named the church I had belonged to for many years in my will. I wrote them a letter telling them of my decision and was pleasantly surprised to receive a very gracious thank you letter back. I wasn't expecting a thank you. The only reason I had even let them know about it in the first place was so, in the event of my demise, they would know to contact my executor.

What about business gifts? When I was in the art business, I was sometimes asked to donate a piece of art for an auction. I usually did so. These types of gifts are normally given (and are tax-deductible here in the US) to promote name recognition, a reminder of what your business is and your personal capabilities are, and in anticipation of future business. Even though they might be classified as qualified gifts, expressions of gratitude are required (in written form) for income-tax filing purposes.

Recently, I squirmed a little when I first read that a professional photographer was being asked by various people, while in the middle of a shoot, if he would send them finished copies of his work via e-mail. The more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became. Who are these people? Are they relatives of the subject being photographed, or are they simply interested onlookers? Are they prospects* as future clients? How many are asking, and how many copies are being requested? Is he being asked to select one or two out of a hundred? Five? Ten? How much time will be required of him to fulfill these requests?

*I've been in sales, OK? The term 'prospect' refers to a person who is actually interested in the product you have to offer. The term 'suspect' refers to a hanger-on, a casual observer and sometimes even abusive 'user' who is interested only in accumulating a portfolio for his own (not your!) advantage.

There's a really fine line being drawn here. A professional's time is valuable. He is paid for his expertise in his chosen field. To ask a professional to additionally give of his time when the project has been completed and the asker is not the original buyer comes very close to stepping over that line. A sliding scale for services should be available on location that the professional can easily produce if he feels that his good nature or good will is being taken advantage of.

What about you? Do you expect thanks when you give something or do you give simply out of the goodness of your heart? If you do not receive some form of gratitude in return, are you then sorry you gave? Was your gift somehow diminished?

Holding a door open for someone is an excellent example. I have never been much of a "women's rights" advocate. Instead, I would describe myself more as a "people's rights" advocate, the right of every individual to be treated as just that ... a unique person. I love having doors held open for me, and am most appreciative when they are. A huge smile and, "Thank you, kind sir!" or just "Thank you!" with a twinkle in my eyes is my normal response. And I love being able to reciprocate. Most often I'll get a thank you. Every once in a while, tho, I'll hold the door open for someone who prances through (and it's almost always a woman, I'm embarrassed to have to tell you) like she's the Queen of Sheba and I'm one of her lowly subjects. It was 'expected' that I would hold the door open for her majesty. That doesn't set well with me, but it doesn't diminish my gift. I know it was freely given, and that thought pleases me.

As I wrote when I started this post, it might better have been titled "Great expectations", but I wanted it to be part four of a series. I'm not at all sure I have completed my thoughts on giving. I understand this might be a touchy subject for some and so, as always, I am open to comments ... particularly those that lead to further discussion.

1 comment:

Craig Peihopa said...

interesting as always Goldenrod. Certainly mainly pearls of wisdom here. I will ponder more on this one.
Great post!