I hadn’t considered how shy or guilty you’d feel sharing stories of your own generosity. That was an unexpected and kind of endearing surprise. I’m glad, though, to hear from those of you who shared because it gives us examples to follow and helps to widen our definitions of generosity.
Generosity does not have to be a daunting tax on our time and money. It can be a spontaneous thing, like letting someone pass you on the road, complimenting a neighbor, leaving a bag of used clothes on the front steps. Or it can be a regular commitment to a charity such as Jill Gurr’s Create Now!, where high-risk kids are taught to express themselves through the creative arts. (One of the simplest ways to help out Jill’s organization, by the way, is to link her site or her interview at LitPark to your own website. Word of mouth is how things happen.)
I’m going to tell a story about my friend, Tysha, who changed the way I view generosity. Before Tysha, my idea of generosity was very much tied to a sense of debt. You owe a favor. You return a favor. You borrow something, so next time, you lend something.
When we moved to New York from Pittsburgh, we were shocked at the cost of housing and just trying to make it from one month to the next without going into debt. My friend Tysha, whose son went to school with our boys, found out Mr. Henderson and I were rotating which days we ate so we could feed our kids breakfast.
One day in the school parking lot, she opened her trunk which was loaded with bags of groceries for our family…much fancier food than we normally eat – and I felt ashamed to accept this offer. In tears, I told her, “I’ll repay you as soon as I can. I’ll buy you so many groceries.”
She put her hand on me and shook her head. “This is a gift,” she said. “Someday you’ll be in a position to help someone else, and you’ll repay it to them.”
Generosity in Mandarin.
Not long after, another friend of mine fell into similar financial trouble and we were in a position to help out. I told her the same thing Tysha told me. She need not worry in the slightest about paying me back, and I did not want her to pay me back. But some day she could do the same for someone else.
So that’s my lesson from Tysha. Real giving is not about keeping score, and that’s why we can’t use generosity to feel loved or to feel like heroes or to feel better than others. Give when you can because you can. Give with no expectations and no strings attached.
Thanks so much to everyone who answered the Question of the Week: Lori Oliva, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Ronlyn Domingue, Kimberly, Betsy, Nicole, lance reynald, Gail Siegel, Carolyn Burns Bass, Jody Reale, Jordan E. Rosenfeld, J.D. Smith, Robin Slick, Aurelio, Julie Ann Shapiro, Kelly Spitzer, mikel k, Jim, Sarah Roundell, Marie, Trisha Mortimore, David Thorpe, Karen Dionne, Mark Bastable, Ric Marion, Noria, Juliet deWal, Mary Akers, and Bruce Hoppe.
I’ll see you Monday with a new question. Have a great weekend!
lance reynaldApril 6, 2007
have I mentioned lately how beautiful you are?
always an inspiration; the dearest of friends to have.
beautiful week in the Park!
everyone have a great weekend!!
MeganApril 6, 2007
That was just a wonderful thing to read first thing in the morning.
You are divine creature Mrs. Henderson, a very rare beauty.
Carolyn Burns BassApril 6, 2007
Generosity is as much an attitude of the heart as much as an action of the will. Susan has one of the most generous hearts I know.
Ronlyn DomingueApril 6, 2007
Thanks for the heartfelt story, Susan. A reminder that acts of kindness are expansive…
Robin SlickApril 6, 2007
What Lance, Megan, Carolyn, and Ronlyn said…
May the Easter Bunny bring you a pound of guacamole and a giant bowl of fresh whipped cream on Sunday! (See? I don’t forget stuff like that but then again, what person who loves you would?)
Carolyn Burns BassApril 6, 2007
Robin said: May the Easter Bunny bring you a pound of guacamole
Acocados were the food item I missed most when I lived in Japan. The first time we came home on leave to visit my husby’s family in North Carolina, my dear mother-in-law, who didn’t know anything about avocados, bought me an avocado and sliced it up on my salad. It was rock hard and bitter, but with enough garlic salt, I got it down and thanked her for it. Her gesture meant more to me than the avocado.
Jody RealeApril 6, 2007
A seriously kickass week at the park. I feel like my heart grew three sizes today. (It’s not just for Christmas anymore.)
AurelioApril 7, 2007
Boy! I know EXACTLY what Carolyn meant about missing avocados! While living in Taiwan where there were none to be found, we took a weekend jaunt to Hong Kong, which had a Mexican restaurant, and I ordered the family-sized bowl of guacamole because I craved it so badly. And yes, I ate the whole thing myself. (It was not one of my moments of generosity!)
I’m not the least bit surprised that so many of the LitPark gang are generous souls, as everyone is so conversationally generous here, and Susan, you set the tone with your continual and genuine kindness toward all of us.
(Let’s all do some secret kindness for someone this coming week and never tell a soul…)
Susan HendersonApril 13, 2007
Lance, Megan, Carolyn, Ronlyn, Robin, Jody, and Aurelio – You all are the best. Thanks for all the sweet comments. And go avocados!
Tysha GambleApril 24, 2007
Susan, this was a most uplifting read! My name is Tysha and I was just out on Google and decided to put my name in to see what I’d get. Boy, did I get a pleasant suprise! It’s nice to know a name shared also has a gift of giving shared! I was blessed today! Thank you!
Tysha…also an aspiring writer!
Susan HendersonApril 24, 2007
Another Tysha in the world! Welcome!