Posts Tagged ‘generosity’

Giving

Sometimes there are events and incidents where you see your own limitations exposed, laid out all too clearly.

I have never been a particularly generous person. Growing up, it wasn’t demonstrated; parsimony runs pretty strongly through both sides of my family of origin.  Still, it sis possible to change, to learn hot to be so thigh hearted.

Over the past 10 years, I have learned to be better at giving, learned to be more generous, learned to think of others.  My friend Doug demonstrated it quietly when my men’s group met, by paying the bill or by leaving a 200% tip for the waitress. I learned too, from a friend who had been in the service industry and taught me to say a kind word and think of the servers and waitresses, their meager paychecks and difficult jobs.

I thought progress had been made. At least until…..

I was having a Starbucks with a friend, sitting outside the Mall on a chilly but sunny afternoon.  To my surprise (because we don’t expect this in Columbia, especially at the Mall) a man approached, asking for money. Now, while he looked a “panhandler” type, I though, “Okay, if he needs food let’s go inside and get him something to eat”. I was willing to help, but on my terms.  My friend was quicker, however.  She asked him his name, reached into her purse, quickly handed him a bill (I think it was a twenty) and told him  that there was no judgement on how he needed it, that she hoped it would help, and that he’d have a better rest of the day.

Instead of feeling generous with my thought of action, I realized how parsimonious I still was. I was willing to help, but only on my terms of basic need and in a way that I controlled.  My friend responded with openness, faith and charity that allowed him the freedom to use it as needed…for good or not, but as he saw fit.  And maybe with her attitude, it would encourage him to use it for need.  It was a surprising interaction.

I hope to do better next time the situation arises.

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Gifted

I don’t know how many gifts I have received in my life.  I suppose that there a way of estimating the number, given a known number of birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, graduations, etc.  For many years receiving gifts was as difficult as giving gifts.  I think it comes down to generosity, and not being able to accept or extend it.

Two gifts stand out for me recently in my life.  Both have provided me with examples of what generosity is and what makes it so memorable, so important. The first example was three years ago.  I had spent the day in the hospital with my mother.  As anyone who has been in an ER knows, it isn’t an easy or comfortable process to be there waiting for hours on end, even if the news turns out alright.  I was beat that day, physically and emotionally.  My friend with the cats had a key to my place at that time, and when I came home she had left a gift on my table.  She had left favorite candies of mine (dark chocolate peanut M&Ms, dark chocolate Reese’s miniatures). That she had known my favorites and left them was touching enough, but ….. she gave me three (3!) bags of each! It was, I think, the extravagant generosity of the gift that touched me.  Thoughtful, extravagant, unexpected, loved.  I still remember the feeling, still have the empty bags as a reminder.

The second was more recent.  My friend from my recent road trip,  without any reason, gave me a gift.  It was an unexpected, unique gift for me; it was the first time someone gave me a piece of jewelry, a cross on a chain.  The gift caught me off guard, for a variety of reasons, and I her why she had given it to me.  Her response surprised me, and has lingered with me.  She told me that during the trip she had noticed, and commented, on my lack of jewelry and asked why.  She remembered my response that during and after the divorce, I stopped wearing any because I didn’t feel I was worthy, or more accurately felt too worthless to wear anything.  She gave me a cross because she felt that as a symbol of my faith I might wear it when I wouldn’t wear something else.  She hoped that in wearing it I would eventually see myself again as worthwhile and begin to forgive myself.  An amazing insight and compassion from one conversation, delivered in one gift.

Two very different gifts.  My heart touched by both.  I’m still trying to learn generosity, still trying to forgive. But gifted to be touched by two such caring people.