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Faking Generosity

A. A. Milne (author of the Winnie the Pooh books) wrote a seasonal piece entitled, "A Hint for Next Christmas." He tells of a friend named William who went to a big Christmas party and was stunned to discover that everyone brought gifts for everyone else, a courtesy he had completely missed. He gave some thought to this problem and then went alone into the dining room while all the other partiers were in the parlor. There in the dining room the gifts were piled at each person's place at the table. Milne writes:

The top parcel said, "To John and Mary from Charles." William took out his fountain pen and added a couple of words to the inscription. It then read, "To John and Mary from Charles and William."
He moved on to the next place. "To Angela from Father," said the top parcel. "And William," wrote William. At his hostess' place he hesitated a moment. The first present there was for "Darling Mother, from her loving children." It did not seem that "and William" was quite suitable. But his hostess was not to be deprived of William's kindly thought; 20 seconds later the handkerchiefs "from John and Mary and William" expressed all the nice things he was feeling for her.

We only truly give when it costs us something.

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