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Learning to Receive


Editor’s Note: Missioner Erin McHugh reflects on the blessings and graces to be found in giving as well as allowing others to give.

After December’s season of giving, I have found myself reflecting on the beauty that can come from receiving. I am not trying to sound selfish or greedy, but I have begun to realize the relationships that can form from allowing someone to give to you.

For someone who has been given the nickname, “Erin the Giver,” receiving can be an extremely hard thing for me. I am constantly giving out compliments and encouraging words, but I rarely accept one myself. I absolutely love when I have the chance to treat someone to lunch or dinner, but I dislike when someone tries to do the same for me. I am always baking treats or giving little gifts to people, but I have a hard time accepting a gift in return. I would gladly talk to someone for hours about his or her life struggles, but when I am struggling myself I have a hard time asking friends for support without feeling like I am burdening them with my troubles.

However, it recently dawned on me that in not accepting a compliment, kind gesture, or gift from someone, I am closing them off and making them feel uninvited into my life. I asked myself: How would I feel if the person I was trying to give to refused my gift or kind gesture? In receiving, you are humbling yourself and showing your deepest vulnerability, inviting that person into your heart.

It made me think about the people experiencing homelessness I encounter every night that I serve at the soup kitchen. When I put myself in their shoes, I realize that they are in an extremely vulnerable place in their life: they have to humbly accept a hot cooked meal, and they often do it with a smile. If they can graciously accept this meal everyday, why can’t I accept the simplest compliment or a kind gesture?

I am learning to receive. It is a challenge for me, but it is something I must grow in, so that I can allow others to love me in the same way I love them. I need to receive to humble myself and show my deepest vulnerability to those I encounter.

It is like the chorus of one of my favorite songs, The Servant Song, “Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you? Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.” In receiving, I am allowing someone to be Christ for me, and – in doing so – I am giving them a beautiful gift.

As I begin this new mission in Guatemala, I am challenging myself to receive and invite the beautiful people I will meet into my life.  I pray that I can humbly accept the generosity that my host family shows me.  I pray that I can accept love from the children at Valley of the Angels Orphanage. I pray, that when I am struggling, I may ask my new friends for support. I pray that in receiving, I may form stronger and more authentic relationships with my new community.

Reflection Question: how can you become vulnerable and invite someone deeper into your life today?

Erin McHugh has a strong passion for working with children and a heart for those living in poverty. After serving in South Africa last summer with Experience Mission, Erin is looking forward to building relationships and immersing herself in a new culture through Franciscan Mission Service. While her family now lives in Cincinnati, OH, Erin has roots in her hometown of Louisville, KY. Before pursuing her calling for international mission work, Erin attended Butler University for two years. There she was involved with the Butler Catholic Community and was co-chair of the service committee. Erin has been in Guatemala since January 2017.