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The art of giving and receiving

The art of giving and receiving

It is relatively easy for me to give, to share, to be there, listen and ask questions. I’m patient and willing to help. On the other hand, I’m not so good at receiving things, it’s a pattern I have been working on a lot in the past years. A safe environment where I started experimenting with this pattern is within my own family structure. After reading “the Fountain” from Els van Steijn - it gave me a new perspective. Van Steijn uses the fountain as a metaphor for the family system. Everyone has his or her unique place and when you are in ‘your place’ you receive the flow which is essential for you and the development of your own path. Your parents are in the bucket above you, meaning that the only thing you ‘need’ to do, is receive from them, you don’t have to give them anything in return, because you will continue giving to your own children or the people that are in the bucket below you. And this is how the fountain of life keeps flowing. So I started to accept the help and gifts in any kind of form from my parents, to let the fountain flow. This not only allowed me to stay grounded in my unique place, it also gave my parents the opportunity to stay in their position.

Okay back to the here and now. I have been practising with receiving and also experiencing the benefits from it in a safe environment. On the bike it was a whole different level. From my previous experience of traveling alone, I knew that people are willing to help, add the factor that you are a woman and people are even more willing to help. Now multiply that with the fact that you are traveling alone as a woman with a bike, camping and carrying lots of baggage and you become a magnet for help. It’s incredible how many people were willing to help me.

I got offered food, drinks, people even pushed the bike forwards, offered me shelter, trusted met with their homes and so on. I never ever have been in a situation that people were so willing to give. So there I was, living in a realm of abundance. The only thing I needed to do; being able to receive it. And yes this felt very awkward at the beginning.

Special encounters

I signed up for Warm Showers, a community through and for cyclists. Cyclists that open their homes for other cyclists without wanting any financial compensation for it. So there I was, my first Warm Showers experience; soaking wet from the rain in front of Heinz. A man around 60 years old opened the door for me, stored my bike and led me to my own little room. He left me with the words, take your time, have a shower, you can use the washing machine and I will start preparing dinner. Error in my head. Standing there I was thinking; can I really receive all of this? First I had to send a message  to my boyfriend and friend that I was safe. Remember the article about fears?, I was also cautious about going to a man I didn’t know who offered me a bed for the night. However, as soon as I stepped inside the house, I knew it was safe. So when I sent the message I took a lovely warm shower and washed everything I had and took a seat at the table in the kitchen. I received a lovely home cooked typical Swedish meal and we chatted during the evening. In the morning I took another shower (you never know when your next one will come), while Heinz was preparing breakfast. Two hours later I was on the road again with some extras for lunch and still a bit perplexed by all the kindness I just had received. That he opened his home to me and shared his valuable time with me. I felt blessed and continued biking with a big smile. I promised myself that I would say yes to all the gestures. And so the trip continued, spending time together with friends who invited me and a former colleague who was in Sweden invited me to join them on their summer holiday with the kids for a few days that filled my cup with happiness. But also random people, sometimes through Warm Showers, sometimes even spontaneous, offered me a place to stay the night or cooked dinner. It was overwhelming.

It took me a while to realise that I was not only receiving, I was also giving them something. My time, my energy, my gratefulness. I was at another Warm Shower address where I could pop my tent on the campground. The place reminded me of a hippie commune, people were very relaxed, smoking some weed, drinking their home brewed alcohol and sitting in front of the campfire. It was here where I met Elly, she was the daughter of the owner and only 19 years old, just finished high school. She was so kind and wise, I don’t know if I've ever met someone who was so aware at this age; aware of her feelings, her possibilities to ask and accept help and she had an enriching perspective on life. She told me that more than 1000 cyclists had spent the night there for free over the past years. They were also running an airbnb and sometimes people from the airbnb would mention that they didn't understand why they would host so many people - making use of electricity, water, the shower, toilet, kitchen, for free. She answered but they don't understand how valuable it is to have all those people come here. I’ve learned so much from them, there were a lot of people with extraordinary stories and always people that could shed a new perspective on her everyday life struggles and opportunities. It is thanks to this young wise lady, that I realised what I could bring to the people around me. The stories, a little sense of adventure, but most importantly my attention. Not that my attention is any more special than yours, but attention, a true sense of connection and showing interest in someone, is one of the biggest things you can give someone.

I finally understood the sentence ‘wat geven je geeft’ (literal translation: 'what giving, gives you’). Knowing that one doesn’t exist without the other. It’s about the exchange, the interconnectedness of giving and receiving.

How do you put this into practice:

  1. Become aware of your patterns

Do you give or receive easily, or do you have trouble receiving or giving? Take some time to analyse your patterns, what triggers them and can you research where these patterns come from?

2. Start experimenting with either giving or receiving

For me it meant saying yes to everyone that offered help or that I would ask for help, especially when it felt uncomfortable. For you it could also mean start helping other people more, without wanting anything in return. Do groceries for a sick neighbour, send a little card to a friend who you deeply care about, or make a little chat with a random person.

3. Reflect on what this behaviour brings you

Take some time to write, meditate, or analyse the situations you went through. Then it’s up to you; choose which behaviour you want to show more, which actions you need to take to participate in this behaviour.


What absolutely amazed me is the positive spiral it resulted in. The more I exchanged, the happier I became, which resulted into even more beautiful exchanges. Some call this the law of attraction, what you focus on, is what you attract. Spiritual bullshit? Maybe the practical side will resonate more with you; if you are friendly, happy and grateful, of course people are more likely to help or interact with you. It’s not only a positive spiral on an individual level, it also continues as a ripple effect. With the exchange of receiving and giving you also make other people happy, who can then continue spreading their happiness and so it goes on. Yes, I really believe that one simple gesture can go a long way. So take action today! To all the people who helped me along the way: thank you for making this an unforgettable ride.

Disclosure: the link to the book ‘The Fountain” is an affiliate link. If you would make a purchase through this link, it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I'll earn some coffee money, which will fuel me for writing more content ;).