My daughter's neighbors are an older, retired couple. As the birth of my daughter's second child neared, she and her husband asked Joe and Linda (the older couple), if they had an emergency and needed to go to the hospital in the middle of the night, would they be willing to come over and stay with their three year old?
As the mother thousands of miles away, I appreciated Joe and Linda immensely. So one day, when I discovered a delightful artisan bread shop in downtown Evanston, I bought a loaf of bread for Joe and Linda. It would be a simple but grateful gesture of appreciation.
As I contemplated delivering the bread, I decided it would be best if three year old Ezra bestowed the gift. I already know how it feels to give, and I wanted him to have that feeling. I wanted to share the blessing.
Over the years of my life, I've seen over and again, confirmation of the aphorism It is better to give than to receive; and I've observed the greater joy in the givers; have observed the happy dispositions of people who are givers, who think of others before themselves.
I handed the store-wrapped-and-tied bread to Ezra and followed him across the driveway and up the stairs to Joe and Linda's. He pounded on the door and when Joe opened it, the little guy blurted his rehearsed line, "Thanks for being good neighbors," then threw the bread at Joe's feet.
The little guy needed some work, but---in his awkward delivery was the sureness of his pleasure.
Practice makes perfect so I headed back to the bread store for two more loaves for each of his pre-school teachers.
When I met him after school on the playground, he was pretty excited as I handed him both loaves. We went back into the old church, the stairs creaking as we hurried to the next floor. Ezra ran down the hall and into the room. I stood behind the door and watched. This time he did a little better standing still long enough for each of his teachers to give him a hug.
By giving to someone else to give, the blessings stretched to include three levels: two givers, one recipient.
When the nine year old twins in primary (church Sunday school for the children) found out their dog had died, they were devastated. I remembered what it felt like as a child to come home and learn that Hildi, our beloved mini dachshund had dashed into the street and been hit by a car. I called my friend down the street and wept as I shared the news. I just wanted someone to know and care.
I wanted the boys to know someone knew and cared, so I went to the bakery and bought a treat, but I paused in the delivery. I had already been blessed from the joy of thinking, caring and acting. Could I stretch those blessings to include others? Of course. I called the twins' primary teacher and asked him if he could deliver the treats because it would mean so much more if it came from him.
The phone call helped me to discover how to extend the blessings of giving. And now, if we can go from twice blessed to thrice blessed, why not thrice to four times? Working on it.