This principle may be one of the most useful insights I know. In his wonderful book Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom describes how Morrie Schwartz, a past college professor becoming incapacitated from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), taught him this valuable lesson.
One day this well-loved professor asked Mitch to adjust his glasses because he could no longer do so. Mitch did, then asked his friend how he dealt with having to receive so much help from others, since Morrie was a person who so characteristically gave to his students.
Morrie answered that when he finally recognized that his helpers understood his condition and really didn’t mind helping, he was able to enjoy the attention. He went on to say that none of us gets all our needs met when we are children, and part of us still longs for nurture and attention in a very childlike way. Mitch wrote that “Morrie had found the secret of giving as an adult and receiving as a child.”
As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, “receiving well” is important. And being able to receive directly to the childlike part of all of us is even more important. It will enable us to experience a deep level of satisfaction and a growing sense of maturity as individuals. Morrie, the ever-giving professor who gave as a mature adult to so many people–even when increasingly disabled–was able to turn on a dime and receive like a child when the opportunity arose.
Each of us needs to make friends with the young-feeling parts of us and actively allow them to enjoy gifts in word or deed–whether from a friend or simply the opportunity to enjoy a ice cream cone on a hot day.
Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom, Random House, 1997.