Spent yesterday visiting with a good friend and his family, and during the course of the afternoon, his delightful three-year-old son presented me with several pieces of original art: the sun and a rainbow, a smiling flower and birds in the sky. What struck me later, after the gifts were happily offered and as happily received, is how potent a demonstration it was of the necessity of giving in the making of art. Lewis Hyde wrote a very interesting book, The Gift, exploring this topic, the transformative power of both giving and receiving (received by me as a gift from another dear friend years ago).

What the young artist embodied so unself-consciously and so sweetly was, is, the absolute necessity of giving what we create – literally, our offerings – to the wider world, however that world is represented. Donovan gifted me with those pictures; I write books and give them to readers whose names I’ll never know. And both of us, I think, aim by that giving to not only please those who receive what we do, but to demonstrate our selves and the gift we are, and hope to be, to the world. Because what we do is incomplete until it has been given, demonstrated, displayed, before and in the world.

I must myself be pleased by what I write, or I can’t give it: but I am not the final audience for what I do (thankfully!). (And the necessity of commerce muddies the water further, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.) But no matter how well I may think I’ve done, I can’t be wholly satisfied with my work until I’ve given it, seen it posted, let’s say, on the world’s refrigerator door: Look! See? I made this!

There’s a reason the little artist came joyfully waving his drawings, to put them in my hands: others’ pleasure in our work is potent validation, and encourages us in our further efforts at creation: and that starts with a reception of the gift. No receiver means no gift as surely as no giver. Thank you, Donovan, for the reminder as well as the pictures (that are now, in fact, on my refrigerator door).

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