Friday, September 21, 2012

Thoughts on Generosity

I've been thinking lately about my life, and about what makes my life feel worthwhile.  I think that if I were to look back in my old age and think about all of the hard work I've done, and where it has gotten me, I would have to say that what I am most grateful for is that my work has given me the opportunity to become generous.  My life has not left me well off in any way, but I have come into a life that is comfortable, and has allowed me with the ability to spread some of my good fortune to the world around me.  I don't think that, upon first look at me or my life or my strange little family, anyone would immediately be able to say "She is a generous person", but I sort of wonder if maybe that's the whole point.  I think that generosity done for the public and announced to everyone is somehow seeking gratification.  The people who do generous things without announcement, without expectation of gratification, and without expectation of receiving anything in return, I think those are the people who are doing things for the right reasons.

I've been thinking about what people I know consider being generous, and I've realized that so many times the word "generous" is automatically associated with money.  So often we think of those who make large charitable donations are the generous people in our world.  People who remember tragedies with a prayer and a check in the mail to support those who have suffered are considered the generous members of our society.  I think the problem with this is that while money helps, and money can do a lot of things, this attitude negates the good work done by people every single day who aren't capable of spending a dime.  Generosity can be found in the teacher who stays two hours after school to tutor their students so that they don't fail classes.  It's in the little league coach who spends hours teaching a kid how to throw the perfect curve ball.  It's in the volunteers all over this country who work in soup kitchens, or cuddle kittens at the Humane Society, or visiting the elderly.  What I've learned is that it is so much more difficult to give your time than it is to give your money.  Time means giving of yourself, taking time out of your schedule and focusing on something other than yourself.  It is difficult, often, to find time, and to use it helping someone other than yourself.  Money is easy, you can make more of it.  You can't make more time.

I enjoy that I have been able to lead a generous life.  I have been fortunate enough to have time to give, and the ability to give it to things that I've been passionate about and cared about.  I've had a home that I've been able to open to those who need a comforting and safe place to be.  I've had the ability to help people who needed it, and I've been able to make life a little bit easier for a handful of people.  None of it cost me anything, at least not really, but I can't help that it's been a lot of small kindnesses that will some day add up to a lot for someone, and hopefully they can look back and feel like someone helped make a difference.  But I don't often talk about it, and I don't expect any sort of credit or praise.  I just hope that at some point someone will feel better about life, and that I helped make them feel that way.  And I hope that some day, when I am old and gray, I won't look back and wish I could have done more.

These are just things that have been bouncing around in my head lately.

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