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An Elf Story

December 17, 2015

A few days ago the mother of one of my students sent me an email to let me know that a gentleman would be contacting me for some potential help on a project.  She was in a local yarn shop when he came in asking for assistance and they were unable to accommodate his request.  Within a day this man called to see if I could stitch the name on to three Christmas stockings.  Their basement had flooded earlier this year and these were replacements.  Even though it is not typically the type of work I do I thought I could fit this into my schedule this week and help him out as Christmas is fast approaching.  So I arranged to meet him at my studio earlier this week.  In walks the “Santa” wearing a Green Bay Packers hat (This is Chicago, we don’t like to help “those” types) with three store bought stockings.  He gives me a list of the children’s names and asks me what I would charge.  I tell him my fee is $X per stocking.  He tells me $X-5.00 “would be better”. Well the Big Ego-elf in me cringes. (Offended) I tell him I’ll see what I can do.  Big Ego-elf sits on my left shoulder telling me I should have handed them back to him, that I am an “ARTIST”.  That I only said I would do this as a favor to help him out the week before Christmas and he should be willing to pay “extra” for the short turn around.  I tell Ego-elf to be quiet as I take the stockings and plan to put the names on in as quick a fashion as I can.

Well the stitching went easy and looked nice (I am an ARTIST after all!) Abby, William and Tallulah will know which stocking is theirs.  But after a while of stitching and reflecting (and yes, venting to a few of my friends) I started to hear the other elf that sits on my right shoulder.  She is total Pamdemonium-elf and she whispers in a softer voice.  She says, “You shouldn’t charge him at all”.  What?  Wait! Why?

Well, she goes on to explain that I wasn’t counting on that income anyway and I was only taking it on as a favor.  I appreciated the referral from my student and wanted to follow through for her.  If this really isn’t the type of “work” (art) I do then I really don’t know what the “right” amount to charge him is anyway.  So don’t charge.  Tell him to donate what he planned to pay to a good cause, or put more goodies into the stockings.  So, that is what I told the “Santa”.  Not to be a “snippy” elf or “holier than thou” elf.  But for myself, to silence that Big Ego-elf that thinks she’s “better” than this.

“Santa” was happy with the stockings.  I told him I’d even be glad to make him a new hat to replace that ugly green Packers hat.  But, no he said that wouldn’t be necessary and was genuinely appreciative.  And there IT is! Appreciation.  All this (s)elf wanted was to feel appreciated for going a little out of her way.  It was never about the money.

So, why do I share this story?  To give myself a pat on the back? To feed my Ego-elf? (Well yes, probably a little, isn’t that always what Ego-elf wants?) But also to share that it isn’t always easy to be the little giving helpful elf (especially to Green Bay Packer Santa’s).  We are all elves this week doing the best we can to balance the s(elf) we want to be with the s(elf) others think they need us to be.   My advice is just hang in there, do the best you can at listening to and being the unconditional giving elf.  But be a little (s)elfish and do it for yourself.  Why? Because, as I’ve learned, the best gift to yourself is giving to others (with the right attitude! Don’t let that martyr-elf sneak in).  And then do what you can to appreciate your own efforts and those of the other elves around you.

Merry Christmas
from total Pamdemonium-elf

P.S. There are no pictures of the stockings as apparently Big-ego self didn’t find the work worthy of documenting. They looked sweet.

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