In my opinion, generosity in its purest form comes from deep in your soul and straight from the heart. It’s about sharing, kindness, and unselfish acts for the benefit of others – willingness to give of your time, your money, yourself. Unfortunately, the human version is twisted at times, turning into “giving… with the expectation of getting.” I have been guilty of this – albeit unknowingly most of the time. I think I am being generous by giving, but things I hope to “get” are hidden deep within my psyche, causing my subconscious to make me behave in ways to obtain these things.
It’s not always like that. I have always tried to be a generous person, giving what I could to those less fortunate. And I am fortunate – not rich in monetary or material wealth, but blessed in spirit, creativity, love and health. The people in my life, especially my family and close friends, have given to me in ways I don’t know how to repay. It is because of their generosity and love that I am who I am and where I am. I only hope that I can give back a fraction of what they’ve given me. If I can be generous in no other way, my hope is that I can always do this: pray for them. I pray that they are protected, stay strong in spirit, in good health, for safety for their loved ones, that they find happiness (whatever that translates to for them) and abundance in all ways desired.
Can Giving Be Wrong?
I don’t think so. A few years ago, I lived in a shared environment, a house with private rooms and varied tenants. A new housemate arrived one day but I didn’t meet her right away. We met later in one of the common areas (the kitchen) and introduced ourselves. The next evening, she came to me, visibly upset, asking if she could use my phone. She had a short conversation with a man (presumably her boyfriend) and ended up in tears. I was suspicious, relying on my intuition and instincts as I often do. I have been known to be naive but I didn’t trust her. I remember looking around my immediate area, eyes catching on my digital camera, PDA, my purse and other gadgets in plain sight. She told me she was from the mid-west and needed to go back. She said her boyfriend was holding money she had earned and didn’t have cab fare to go get it. Some would say I’m a sucker. One of my other housemates would tell me later that she was a prostitute with a drug problem.
She asked if she could borrow some money for a cab. I didn’t really think about it. Funny how scripture pops into my head sometimes. Though I don’t know the verse, it says something like, if someone asks something of you, and it is in your capacity to give, give. I always know exactly what is in my wallet and I don’t often carry much cash. But I gave her what I had. She was a bad actress, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never see that $20 again. It didn’t matter. She had asked of me, and I gave. Sure, you could argue, “if she really was an addict, that $20 could have bought a hit of something that would kill her.” And I say, if that were her fate, then maybe she would finally know peace. If you saw her, you would think she was a beautiful girl – or at least, had been beautiful before the manner in which she was living her life caught up with her. I saw someone less fortunate than I have been, who had gone terribly wrong somewhere along the line. Someone who may not have had the kind of loving environment as I had to grow up in. I never saw her again but I prayed for her too.
The Spirit of Giving
Giving without expectations is a feeling I can’t even put into words. I have seriously considered giving up my worldly possessions to give of myself in some small way to make a difference. I kid you not. I’m just wired that way. But while I desire to give of myself, some would consider me selfish. I can be. Seems people are always filled with contradictions. My selfishness, however, is not entirely about greed. My mother is one of the sweetest and toughest women I know. It was she who taught me kindness and she who taught me that life is tough, but I’m tougher. For that reason, I indulge in selfish behavior by closing myself off and dismissing those who are not as tough. Not realizing that, given their upbringing or circumstances, they may actually be weak in areas where I am strong. Weak because it’s what they’ve always known, the way it’s always been done or maybe perhaps they don’t see the weakness or have no desire to change it.
Like anyone, I have my faults, but I do try to give. We encounter opportunities to give every day. Like giving a few dollars to the homeless man who has sores on his feet and no shoes. Or swiping your Metrocard for a frail woman who can’t walk to the opposite end of the subway station to get her own card when the machine is down. Or giving change to the woman in the subway who has no legs but sings with a voice so pure and clear, it makes you want to cry and gives you chills simultaneously. Or offering a smile, a kind word to a lonesome elderly woman in the park. These are people who may seem less fortunate than I in obvious ways, but even those considered more fortunate, in terms of wealth, material possessions, need generosity. A word of encouragement, sincere praise, recognition, a compliment, a thank you – though small, can turn out to be right on time for someone doubting themselves, their abilities, their future.
Obviously, generosity comes in many forms. I believe in the hearts of my fellow humans and their power to give. You give and you get, true enough. To truly give, you must forget about the “get” part. What would happen if you let yourself be moved to random acts of kindness without thinking about what you’d receive in return? I assure you, the benefits are plentiful.
I don’t often make strict resolutions, but next year, I pledge to give more, of myself, of my love, of my gifts and my time. Not only to others, but to myself as well. As the year draws to a close, I thank God for another year; a year of friends, family, dogs, love, memories, personal and emotional growth, filled with joys, sorrows, triumphs and seeming defeats.
And dear friend, I say to you, after all that has come and gone, I’m still here. Humbled by the gift of life and where it has taken me. The journey continues…