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!