Approximately 25 years ago (in March 2020), we did a customer/reader survey. I asked what you like to read on the blog & one of the respondents suggested a post on "living generously". What a fabulous idea and perfect for this time in history!
[The title of this post implies some kind of authority or expertise — ha! Nope, no experts here... just some thoughts on generosity from a fellow human, trying to make my way!]
Spoiler alert: Not myself!
Generosity reflects a readiness to give more of something than is necessary or expected. It is a quality that we can pursue — a goal that can motivate our actions & thoughts.
But, like other characteristics like "funny", "cool", or "fun", I don't really think "being generous" is a label we can attribute to ourselves! Only other people determine whether or not you are generous (imo).
It's easy to claim that something is important, that it is a value. But, the reality of our true priorities are revealed by how we spend our Time, Energy, Attention, & Money ("TEAM" helps me remember this!).
Generosity with time may look like:
Generosity with energy may look like:
Generosity with attention may look like:
Generosity with money may look like:
Beyond the generosity with material possessions & our priorities in time and energy, I think that what we truly need, most of all, right now, is a generosity of spirit.
We are at an unprecedented time in history. Unprecedented, of course, in our lived experiences; but, also: we've never before seen this level of extreme divisiveness in the conversations, media, politics, & overall public response to the global pandemic (among other current crises!).
There are jokes, there are opinion articles, there are memes, there are Twitter threads... and most of them are imbued with a spirit of dismissiveness.
Dismissing others, dismissing other POVs, dismissing any aspects of the topic-at-hand that are outside of the particular, argued opinion.
Sometimes, I am overwhelmed with hopelessness. How will we fight for common ground? For shared humanity? Have we forgotten nuance and complexity? How will we resist our own echo chambers?
Again, generosity is a readiness to give more of something than is necessary or expected. Culturally, what is expected is: to give no credibility to others' opinions and points of view. What is expected is: that many things we believe are self-evident and other people with divergent opinions are idiots who need to catch up. What is necessary, culturally, in dialogue, is: almost nothing. Not politeness, not listening, not decency towards other human beings.
So, in this regard, generosity can look very simple. For example, reading a comment from someone (a friend, a family member, a neighbor, a politician) that you disagree with, and not thinking the worst about them. Our internal thoughts: that is what I mean by a generosity of spirit.
Living generously will flow out of feeling & thinking with generosity. Actions will begin to flow from what is internal.
Is living generously a challenge? Is it worth it? What examples have you seen in others whom you would consider "generous"? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or email email@example.com
A friend recently asked on Facebook for “the most challenging and enlightening resource you have read/watched about the problem of racism in America”. This question received numerous responses within the day: half a dozen films, dozens of books, podcasts, courses, and other hubs of information resources (as well as the astute reply, “Conversation”, which is, of course, the most relational and human of “resources”).
I think that this experience was shared by most people in early June (as protests & concerns over racial injustice had reached a critical volume): so many resources, so much to learn.
But now, 2 months later… what have we done with the magnitude of worthy, fascinating, perspective-altering information & insights that have been brought to our attention?
And this it only in the area racial injustice. In other interests & concerns: How much do we know? How much have we learned & read & listened to already?
A few weeks ago, I bumped into another grade 1 parent at the park, an acquaintance I knew from school events. As we chatted about our strange time since mid-March (working from home; restless but resilient kids; he hadn’t stepped foot in a store for 3 months...), he made an interesting remark:
We’ve looked at our bank account at the end of each month and thought, “what were we spending all that money on?!”
A few stories, as I parse through the complexities of privilege & justice…
We spent time visiting in Dhomina’s relatively large home. The space had been expanded to include a separate cooking space — built upon because of the income she earned making kantha for Basha, for us. Amazing!