Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Joy of Giving

Being a parent has been one of the most profound influences on my personal understanding of G-D and how he might relate to us. One of the metaphors in the Bible that is used over and over is G-D as our parent and us as his children. I don't think that I really "got" that concept very well from the perspective of a child. However, becoming a parent myself gives me a whole new way of appreciating that metaphor and how G-D might want us to relate to him.

We took my daughter to Sesame Place this past weekend. We wanted to spend time with some very dear friends who also have little children, and we thought Sesame Place would be a great place to meet up. If you don’t know, Sesame Place is a theme park in the Sea World family of parks that features the characters on Sesame Street. It is aimed at little kids ages 2-7 or so, although I think the water park part could be fun for older kids. All of the rides are kid appropriate and it is a small park so it is not completely overwhelming. There are plenty of opportunities to meet the characters and get pictures taken.

 It was a great weekend, both at the park and with our friends, and while we were there I bought my daughter a toy. I had planned to buy her something, because I love buying her gifts and I wanted her to have something fun from the weekend. Her favorite Sesame Street character right now is Abby (who wears her pink and purple hair in pigtails and is a fairy godmother in training) and so I bought her a small Abby doll. My daughter was with me when we picked it out and she was so pleased and happy to get this toy.

My daughter adores her Abby doll. She has played with it constantly for the past 3 days, which is a really good attention span on a toy for a 2 and a half-year old child. She has pretended she has wings to fly with Abby. She has helped Abby fly “up up up” in the sky. She has given Abby some juice from her juice cup. She has been giving Abby shoulder rides they way we give her shoulder rides. She is so un-self-conscious at this age that her delight is clearly apparent. It’s absolutely enchanting to listen to.
It’s an amazing feeling, realizing I’ve given my daughter something that makes her so happy. It’s a physical feeling of lightness in my chest and a smile on my face and a bubbling sense of happiness in my own heart, listening to her narrate her play with her new dolly. I just feel really good that I was able to give her something that pleases her so much. Her reaction is exactly what I was hoping for when I bought the doll. I feel like I hit a homerun. 

And so then I was thinking about it and wondering if G-D doesn’t feel the same way about us? Does G-D grin and laugh with pleasure when he sees us enjoying the good gifts he has given? Does he feel joyful when he sees us happily using what he has provided? I don’t usually think of G-D that way. I tend to think more about using his gifts responsibly. My mental focus tends to be more on the questions of being a good steward. Am I being generous with my brothers and sisters, all of G-D’s beloved children? Am I using my talents wisely so that I am increasing what G-D has invested in me? Am I doing it right? I tend to think more in terms of economics, repaying and investing, rather than in terms of receiving and enjoying a gift.

And yet I know, as a parent, that what I want most is to see my daughter using and enjoying what I have given her. Even as a friend, what makes me happiest is when someone mentions that they use something I have given them all the time and they love it. I do think it is important to be responsible with what we are given. I do think that generosity pleases G-D and that wise stewardship is needed for all our different gifts. I think, however, that I could spend a little more time laughing and really enjoying what I have.