Yesterday, I was at a gala event where it was encouraged to take the centerpieces after the event. My dad reached for our centerpiece, which looked like leftover Valentine’s day bouquets full of pink and red carnations and roses, but I shooed him away because I saw that there were much better centerpieces from the front tables. Yes, these centerpieces were nearly twice as big, and had snapdragons and lilies and foliage. I guarded my bouquet while I waited for my dad to bring the car around. On their way out, a duo of women whom I thought were friends of my dad, looked at my bouquet and asked if they could swap my bouquet with theirs. One woman was a board member, she said. And honestly, I felt like I was trapped in an etiquette quagmire. Yes, that was rude of them to ask. But they were old women. And so I swapped my beautiful bouquet for her crappy bouquet.
Later I found out that these women had caused my dad endless frustration during the ceremony, hadn’t even paid for their tickets and did nothing but put my father down. So I was pretty furious that I gave my bouquet to them.
But even more than that, there was no reason for me to switch my bouquet. I got my centerpiece fair and square, well after the people at the table had left and people had started leaving. I had given other bouquets to other people who wanted them. And even if I hadn’t, this woman had no right to my centerpiece. It was a free-for-all and I took advantage. And then she took advantage of me.
The incidence caused me to wonder, is everyone either a taker or a giver in life, and am I too much of a giver than a taker?
Now, I would never ask for something that clearly belongs to someone else, but maybe I should. Sometimes, that person may give it up. Furthermore, if someone asks me for something that I don’t need, I am often willing to give it away. I wonder if I’m too giving in this regard.
And while this all seems quite mean, 1) I’m not advocating for stealing and 2) maybe this is the way the world works.
First, I’m advocating for asking for things, not taking without permission. And I’m advocating for taking ownership of what’s yours. There’s nothing even slightly immoral about what I’m positing. Don’t rob the poor and take from the needy – because that’s silly and mean. But ask for what you want from people who can give it to you.
Second, I think this is how people get ahead. I’ve read that people actually like you more when you ask them to do favors for you. So it gets to be a win-win for the askers and a lose-lose for the givers. I guess, third, and finally, no one should only be a giver or only a taker. We should all strive for balance. I find that I might be giving too much, and being only a giver has a lot of disadvantages.
What do you think? Are you too much of a giver, too much of a taker or have you found the right balance?