The other day, eight colleagues and I went out to lunch on the occasion of one person’s last day with the company. After lunch was finished, H disappeared and came back putting his credit card in his wallet, saying he had got lunch for the table.
Immediately people started saying things like “oh you can’t do that” and “please, how much do I owe you?” H just said quietly, “it’s Christmas, and I like all of you and you’re great to work with and I want to buy lunch.”
If it was a conscious decision to simply accept gestures like these, I don’t remember making it. Maybe I’m just mindful of the notion that a kindness like this is not only enjoyed by the receiver, but by the giver too. Often the giver enjoys it more.
And with meals –the sharing of food and conversation together – the offer of one person to buy a meal seems especially warm and genuine. While my financial situation was such that it wasn’t possible for many years, I can now to offer to buy the meal when I go out with someone and I get a great deal of pleasure in doing so. As I imagine it did H that day.
So when H countered the protests with such grace, I just said to him “Thank you H, you’re very kind.”
I got to wondering why people feel obliged to protest a gesture like that. Is it some kind of modesty or percieved duty to let the person off the hook in case they really don’t want to pay? Or some more deep-seated issue, some kind of threat to one’s strength as a person? Of course I know there is no intended falseness in the spirit of the protests, but it's like they’re almost expected when the gesture is extended.
So when it was clear that H had paid for the meal and that was that, I suggested that it was a good opportunity to pay the kindness forward – and find a way to do something nice for someone else that day in H’s honour. That seemed to appease everyone. After all, it’s Christmas.