Thursday, May 13, 2010

Uninvited Gifts

Last week, a big box appeared on the doorstep. It wasn’t my birthday, and I wasn’t aware of having ordered anything. Somewhat puzzled, I looked at the address label, and found that it had been sent by a business that sells material related to my profession. I didn’t have time to open the package until the evening, and was greatly surprised to find a sizable gift basket with edible goodies, quality foods, inviting and quite appealing to my sweet tooth.
The only connection I was able to make between these things and my profession was that I have to feed myself in order to play the piano and teach, but it still seemed rather far fetched.
For more than 20 years, I taught at community music schools in Germany. I was employed by the community, holding a public position. Accepting anything like this would have been understood as preferential treatment and could have gotten me fired. Now, I teach privately, and could care less - except that accepting the gift just didn’t feel right. 
The end of the school year is a busy time, I had a million things to do already, let alone make additional decisions. For the time being, I put the gift basket on the dresser in the bedroom - the only place where it fit without being in the way. In between tasks, tried to come up with an idea what to do with it: provide the snacks for a house concert a friend is hosting this week - give it to a homeless person at Port Authority the next time I go into the city - share it with the people from my volunteer shift at the Open Center...
Every option felt awkward, uncomfortable and somehow beside the point. Tuesday morning, I put the gift back in the box, got on my bike, made a trip to the post office, and returned the package to the sender. Thanking the business for their generosity, I explained that I simply didn’t feel comfortable accepting a personal gift from a business connection.     

1 comment:

  1. Hey Birgit,

    Good move. The hospital I worked at in Manchester used to give free turkeys to the doctors prior to Thanksgiving, available at the loading dock behind the hospital cafeteria and food service area. For obvious reasons, this gesture didn't feel right, so I created a mechanism for docs to donate the turkeys to local charities.......a tradition that continues to this day. Last year, 150 turkeys were donated........redirecting needed foodstuffs to more deserving recipients. But I HAVE to didn't even TRY one of the truffles?!