Our stories hold truths for us.
One of my truths is that my journey into generosity began with an encounter with a person on the NYC subway asking for money (FOR homeless people, he was not himself homeless as far as I know).
Saying “No” in that situation makes a lot of sense. If you don’t believe that, check out Zorro’s very personal comment to yesterday’s post. He said that his son is homeless, that if someone gives his son money that money will be spent on drugs, that giving to his son is irresponsible behavior.
I don’t know the big answer to the question that Zorro is asking. My personal answer has been that saying “no” all the time and automatically made me feel less human; and I also don’t believe that every dollar given to a homeless person makes that person worse off.
Even though my story started there, Generosity Day isn’t, for me, about whether or not I give to the homeless. That said, at the outset, I did feel like giving money more freely was a critical ingredient (the critical ingredient?) to my own practice of generosity. Four years in, I don’t feel that as strongly, but I still ask myself whether an active practice of giving is essential to a practice of generosity. Put another way, can I fully explore generosity without directly confronting my relationship to money?
This is one in a long list of questions that’s a work-in-process for me, but here’s where I am today: in today’s society money plays a huge role in defining us. It is one of our scorecards and an important source of our identity. (Ugly to say that out loud, but it feels like a fair generalization). And I think that part of seeing abundance and our good fortune in the world is letting go more of the money we have. This is where the ancient notion of tithing comes from – that our good fortune flows from the blessings we have received, and part of our work on earth is to share these blessings with others. (Even if a conversation with religious or doctrinaire underpinnings isn’t your cup of tea, I think it’s impossible to look at the world – the whole world – and deny that some or even most of my or your good fortune is due to accidents of birth. We won a lottery we never knew we’d entered. At yet, ironically, it is mostly up to us to decide what to do with that abundance.)
That said, my own practice of giving money is still evolving. These are hard, challenging, very personal questions. Broadly, I do give more than I used to and, as important, I agonize much much less about each time I give. I experience less scarcity. And that feels right to me.
I also know that this is only part of the equation. These days I’m as interested in generosity of spirit, the generosity of a heartfelt apology, the generosity of giving time to help another, the generosity of putting yourself out there and (really truly) expecting nothing in return. So today, for where I am, money is not the focus of my own inquiry, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle. That said, I do feel that a practice of generosity, a practice of recognizing and sharing abundance, must impact to how we think about, hold on to, and let go of our money.
My hope for this year’s Generosity Day is that people will share their own stories of generosity – the questions they ask themselves, the insights they’ve gained, the fears they confronted (or failed to confront). Simple stories. Happy stories. Hard stories. Stories that make you laugh.
Stories about what they did on Generosity Day – and before and after.
Fun tools on the Generosity Day site make it easier to commit today to what you’ll do tomorrow. Or just throw a #generosityday into your online updates and we’ll see it!