Cup & Saucer

Give from the saucer, not from the cup ~ Christy Whitman

I come from a long line of givers.

My mother and her sisters. Their mother. And her mother before that. I suspect we could trace the giving-line back through several centuries, maybe even several species of hominid.

And we wear this giving badge with great honor, sometimes competing (gently) for which one of us can give more.

When I was a kid, I always lost. But more recently, I’ve been the feisty underdog, springing back up after every knock-out, ready for another round of giving, keeping up, punch for punch, with the big dogs.

I’ve been in training a long time. And I’ve learned from the best.

So imagine my surprise, when I came across this little nugget:

Give from the saucer, not from the cup.

Say what?

What do you mean, give from the saucer? The cup is where it’s at! You know, my cup runneth over, many a slip twixt cup and lip, to be in your cups . . . .

Where are the saucer metaphors???

Nowhere, that’s where!

So what’s all this twittering on about, “Give from the saucer?”

The cup has ruled our literal and symbolic world for millennia, for most of recorded history. We see it in literature, in the Tarot, in the big R-word, for crying out loud! Okay, so they called it a “chalice” back then, but really, it was a cup. Plain and simple.

No great poetry about saucers, no one was carving saucers with their newly-mutated opposable thumbs, it was the cup that captured our imagination, and, frankly, that was useful . . . for holding liquids and such.

The saucer was a relatively late entrant to civilized society–Wikipedia tells me 17th century Europe–so it was probably devised to protect all that fancy Baroque furniture from rings and accidental splashes from careless tea drinkers.

So yeah, saucers . . . definitely the unrenowned step-sister to the grand ole cup!

So what does this mean, Give from the Saucer? And why Now?

Because we are given-out.

I know it doesn’t seem that way in this consumerist culture, but we are. We are given-out.

We are giving from a place of scarcity and zero-sum constructs. And as a result, there are tea leaves in our offering–sedimentary, bitter, corrupt.

Consider, instead, this idea of giving from the saucer.

When do we have something in the saucer? When our cups “runneth over,” of course. When we have so much that we cannot contain it. When we have more than enough.

And so it should be when we give.

We should give from a place of abundance, from too much. We should give when it’s easy, when it will not be missed.

Oprah says that she only gives what she can afford not to get back.

Okay, so for Oprah, that’s a LOT–especially if the giving is money or other material things.

But what of Time?



How much sweeter it is when these are given from a place of abundance rather than constraint.

From the saucer, not the cup.


On an interesting note, in India, the country of my birth, people drink from the saucer all the time. In fact, many people prefer the saucer and drink from it with great relish.

I’m not sure why. Habit maybe.

Or maybe the saucer tempers the tea–lets it breathe, cools it down–until it is perfect.



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Categories: Reflections

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2 replies

  1. Interesting that drinking from the saucer is done in India.
    On a trip to see my grandmother, on my dad’s side, in rural Kentucky way back in the early 70’s, they too drank coffee from the saucer. All of us kids giggled at this and thought it was the strangest thing until our grandma said ‘may look funny but I never burn my tongue.’

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