The Joy of Giving

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Imagine waking up one morning and opening the front door to pick up the day’s newspaper. You are dressed frumpily in your pyjamas, hair swept to one side and casually tied up with a random elastic band you picked up on the dressing table. In your mind you think about what time you need to leave the house, and mentally begin counting backwards to the time you have left to curl up on a couch and read the morning’s papers with a cup of coffee. Just as you bend down to pick up the paper, your eyes catch sight of this lovely parcel sitting obediently outside your doorstep, a pretty pink ribbon decked on, smiling at you.

There is no note, no little card or scribble on the parcel that says “From whom to whom”. And as unrealistic as it sounds for you to receive a surprise parcel from an unidentified giver, the thought of suspending reality and embracing the unexpected surprise brings about such exuberance and joy.

Why do we like receiving such sweet surprises?

For a start, I think no one expects to receive a surprise. The fact that it is unexpected means the leap of joy the recipient takes when he or she sees the surprise gift is wider and more thrilling than if he or she already expects something special. I learnt to only let on the surprise when it plays to your benefit – a little kid refused to go in for class, so I went up to her and whispered that there will be a huge surprise and she should come for class – we will be playing a game with candy canes as a reward! The rest of the children’s eyes lit up when we unravelled the present at the end of the pass-the-parcel game. You should have been there to see it.

It also doesn’t happen all the time and to everyone, so a surprise makes you feel special. In order for a surprise to happen, there needs to be some kind of planning, and sometimes this also means involving a wider circle of family or friends. And we know that when there is effort behind coordinating a surprise, the recipient of the gift will feel immensely valued. A few years back my family planned to have a simple birthday gathering with a family friend. It turned out that everyone had invited my circle of friends home for a surprise birthday gathering! They even hid the footwear at the door so I wouldn’t suspect anything when I came home from running an “errand”.

What about giving the surprise?

Apart from feeling the adrenaline and the thrill of successfully pulling off a surprise, I think the best part of being the giver behind any surprise is seeing the joy reflected in a loved one’s face. I love how the birthday girl always looks when we sneak in a birthday cake as a surprise. The most recent surprise was sneaking in a cake as part of a farewell celebration for a good friend and colleague at a k-box session one evening.

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Surprises are always sweet whether you are giving it or receiving it, and the look of genuine surprise is worth all the necessary trouble taken to prepare for the surprise, whether or not you are standing on the giving or receiving side. Do men experience the same kick giving and receiving surprises as women, you think?

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