Generosity – what’s in it for everyone

I’ve been thinking lately about generosity.

I think it was first inspired by an argument between Bookworm and Picasso, one of those truly trivial sibling fights that started because Picasso wanted to borrow Bookworm’s bey-blade rip-cord and Bookworm said no, even though he wasn’t using it, didn’t care about it, nor indeed had used nor cared about it for possibly six months. I gave a rousing speech about how I want them to be generous-hearted people, which means allowing people to use – or have – things of yours you don’t use or need.

Then my Mum shared with me something from a book she had been reading, written by Tim Costello (CEO of World Vision).

Tim has written a book called “Hope”, which is a collection of his experiences traveling around the world, visiting under-developed countries. This particular story was from when he visited the people of Nagaland in a tiny part of north-east India, where people wear different colours to represent their roles in the community – for example teachers wear blue and elders red.

Here is the extract:

“One morning I was to address the village where I was staying at the 6am prayer meeting…I remember seeing the usual colours and spotting a person adorned with a gold coat. It was a knockout. I asked my host what that colour represented and was told that it indicated a person who had given a feast of merit.

“I looked quizzically at my host, who responded in surprise – surely my culture had feasts of merit? ‘No’, I said, ‘that’s new to me’. So he went on to explain that in Naga culture, when you become rich – meaning you have a lot of pigs and bags of rice – you can choose to throw a feast of merit. This means hosting a party for the whole village, particularly the poor, which might go on for two weeks or a month – whatever time it takes to liquidate all your assets.

“When everything is gone, you have a glorious gold cloak placed on your shoulders in a ceremony of great respect. Then you start again with nothing. I recall telling him that I was pretty sure I had never heard of anything like a feast of merit in my culture.”

What a beautiful story.

Finally, I’ve also been studying (for my degree) the idea of the “cosmopolis” lately. This is an idea that all human beings, regardless of culture, race, religion, political affiliation or even where they are located in history, are actually a single community, bound by the fact that we are all human. Our value lies in our humanity. It’s this kind of thinking that has birthed the concept of universal human rights.

So with all these thoughts bubbling away in my mind, I started thinking – what if we – as a family, community, or nation – really saw others like that? What would happen?

I think it would change the way we view so many things – our neighbours, our school community. The  marginalised. The impoverished. Nations who are starving. The disabled. The mentally ill. Refugees. And then I think we’d start by being more generous, in our views, our thoughts, with our time, and our kindness and compassion and also our resources.

So I have actually felt really challenged to be a more generous person in lots of ways. To actually treat my neighbour as myself, and be generous, with things (like bey-blade rip cords!) that have no actual value at all, but also with things that cost me in some way. I think the kids did take on board my little homily, and we are all excited about doing the “Operation Christmas Child” boxes, where you buy Christmas presents for children across the world who would otherwise have no present on Christmas Day. You can read more here.

I hope everyone has a great weekend – and you get the chance to be generous to someone in your path as well.

2 thoughts on “Generosity – what’s in it for everyone

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