Once upon a time, a bunch of years ago, the CEO of an organization I was doing part-time, freelance work for asked me to meet her at Applebee’s for dessert and to go over the calendar for upcoming events. When I got there, I learned that my boss wasn’t really planning to talk about the calendar of upcoming events at all. Instead, she had brought two coworkers with the intention of telling me that, despite the fact that our numbers were up, we were overloaded with volunteers, and the agency was more widely known than ever before, I must not be doing my job because I wasn’t sitting in the office working. For over an hour I listened to ‘constructive criticism’ that had to be couched with, “Well, you’re right, our numbers are up…” and “Yes, it is true that we have more sponsors and volunteers than ever before…” When I finally found a way to leave, I got into my car and cried for an hour before going home, then started looking for another employment opportunity immediately. I also decided Applebee’s wasn’t a place I wanted to go back to again anytime soon. And I didn’t.
A few months ago, one of my favorite people in the world asked me to meet her at Applebee’s. She brought a local business owner and proceeded to tell him that he needed to hire me to do some PR work for him – immediately. He did, and I felt the Applebee’s curse was starting to wear off. So today, when that same friend said we’d meet at Applebee’s for lunch, I decided that, if the place didn’t melt down or explode in my presence, I’d give up my personal vendetta against Applebee’s. Lunch with my friend was such a treat for me, and I loved spending time with her, talking, laughing, and just being together. When the check came, I got it, and though she protested and actually started to get cranky, I really wanted to pick up the tab as my gift of the day. It felt like one of the easiest gifts so far, and it made my heart sing all the way home to have been able to spend time with someone I admire and feel so comfortable with. I hope it still counts as a gift because I felt like I got so much out of having a chance to eradicate the curse of Applebee’s, enjoy a really good salad, drink about a gallon of ice cold water, laugh until I snorted, and treat my friend while I was being treated, too.
It definitely made the more challenging parts of my day a little easier to handle, and it forced me to go out into the ‘real world,’ spend time with actual, breathing human beings, and make conversation with someone besides my dogs, Buddy and Daisy. As the days begin to wind down on this experiment of gifting, I’m glad I wasn’t expecting a life-shattering change in my life, but I think the whole experiment is making me more observant of some of the simple, good things that do happen in my life. It’s also making me more aware of all the little ‘gifts’ that I give without even thinking about it…the automatic agreement to ‘whip up a letter’ or ‘look over a document’ kinds of things I never even thought of as gifts because they were all part of being a good person. Now that I’m forced to write about the gifts I choose to give on a daily basis, I’m realizing that I don’t just give because I have to; I give because it’s part of who I am. Since I had the kind of challenges that had someone hurling epithets at me and calling me some pretty awful things, I think this realization is a gift from the universe – or at the very least my own soul, to me today, and I’m going to take it and offer up a silent and exuberant prayer of thanks!