The Art Of Giving

post 214/365


“hilo hal halak yalli lebsstih” (those earrings you are wearing are really nice)”

“merci, m2addam” (thank you, it’s given to you)

“la2, merci, hilo 3ala sahbo” (no thank you, it’s pretty on its wearer)

The ingrained habit of most Lebanese toward generosity is well known, and most people have heard that if you praise something that belongs to a Lebanese, he will insist you take it, expecting that you will refuse to take it.

This intense dedication to generosity is evident throughout the society, but is offset by the demand for modesty or humility, which forces one to refuse most of what is offered as more than is deserved. On a more general level, it is said “if a person tries to say something good about himself, he is a liar; if there is anything good to be said, other people will say it.”

Some of the Arabic/Lebanese words carry so much more meaning in them then the few letters that create them. There is a kind of humbleness and nearness that is only existent in those words and that elevate any relationship from mere relationship to amity.

M2addam is another one of those national treasure words that mirror the generosity and the kindness of the people of this land. M2addam literary means, it is presented to you. This expression of extreme generosity is always said after one compliments the other on something they have or are wearing. Although one is always expected to decline this generous offer by saying that it only looks good on its owner “helo 3ala sahbo”, still it is said and secretly hoped that it is declined.

“Hello America”, an Adel Imam Egyptian movie from ’98, pokes fun at this: Imam’s character interacts with Americans who take him up on his offer leaving him stunned at their no-shame-I-just-scored-a-Rolex attitude.

M2addam is an expression of extreme bounteousness, which is an important Arabic virtue that is very much valued in our part of the world. There is an underlying rule to it, a way to the universe, which is true in a sense that giving opens the way for receiving, because “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted” (Aesop). And so the story goes…

To my Lebanon and its generous people who know that “The manner of giving is worth more than the gift” Pierre Corneille

To read about other expressions here is the link to some of my previous posts

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