Exchanging Gifts, Exchanging Love


A few mornings ago, I walked into the office to find a Sprite sitting on my desk. Thinking it belonged to someone who’d accidentally left it there, and since I’m generally a water, tea, or coffee drinker, I moved it to the donation sorting conference table. Quite promptly, I forgot all about it.

Hours later when Tommy came for in for an aspirin and to say hello, he sat in the chair across from mine, peering over my shoulder to see what I was working on that day. When a community member so obviously wants to chat, I try to remember that the interruptions are our work, regardless of what might be vying for my attention on my computer screen.

“How’s the baby?” he asked, always curious about my daughter.

I gave him the latest rundown on milestones, the current one being the baby Olympic event of walking. We talked for a few minutes until he noticed the Sprite sitting on the other table.

“Don’t you want this?” he asked, holding the Sprite up over his head, shaking it a little. “I bought it for you!” he exclaimed.

And once again, I was touched by the generosity of this community.

“I had no idea it was for me. Thank you!” I told him, taking the Sprite and putting it in its rightful place (i.e. back on my desk).

Whenever I begin to develop amnesia and fall into the trap of inadvertently thinking we (myself, my co-workers, our supporters, and volunteers) are giving to them (our community members), I am so beyond grateful for and humbled by the reminder that there is no “Other” here. We are a community, and a community is built on and maintained through relationships. We all belong, and we all having something to give and receive from one another.

In an article entitled, “The Psychology of Gift Exchange,” the author states: “Gift giving is a social, cultural and economic experience; a material and social communication exchange that is inherent across human societies and instrumental in maintaining social relationships and expressing feelings.”

By gifting me with a Sprite, Tommy had done more than show me he had been thinking about me and wanted to show it. He was doing his part to cement a social bond, the kind of bond that keeps our community engagement center the uniquely beautiful and hospitable place that it is. It truly is these little things, these moments that keep the spirit of Love Wins alive. When we exchange gifts, we’re really just exchanging love.