Generosity has been an important presence in my life this month. So I looked up the definition of the word, and I saw that two of its meanings are “readiness or liberality in giving” and “largeness or fullness”. I like those definitions, because truly, being ready and willing to give to others enlarges us beyond measure.
I’ve spent the past 2-1/2 weeks traveling in Australia, and I have been the beneficiary of countless acts of generosity. In Sydney, a business acquaintance invited us to his home for a relaxed and convivial family meal, because he knew that eating in restaurants night after night gets old. In Brisbane, a woman I met at dinner one night offered to drive me to the koala sanctuary I wanted to visit — and then paid for my entry once we got there. Volunteer guides at botanic gardens and art museums freely and pleasantly shared their knowledge and their passion for the treasures they oversee. The cheery people in the many small cafés and B&Bs always greeted us with a smile and an eagerness to talk about what they had to offer us.
Sally Kempton writes that practicing generosity challenges “our trust in abundance” as well as “our ability to empathize with others”. Believing that we have enough for ourselves makes it easier to give to others, as does the perception that the person to whom we are giving has the same needs and desires as we do. The great gift of the people I met was their willingness to share, whether it was information, food or friendliness, without reservation or frugality. They acted on the assumption that our commonalities were greater than our differences, and didn’t hold back.
The connection that occurs between people when we are generous with each other is what brings fullness to us. The more we give, the more we have. It’s an expansion of the social network that takes us out of our narrow perspective and allows us to glimpse the web of possible interrelationships in the world. It enlarges our potential at the same time that it makes the world seem incredibly small and intimate.
Acts of generosity color our view of life, whether they are the kindnesses of strangers when we travel or the simple things we do for our friends and family every day. When we receive generosity, the view is as bright as a rainbow; and when we don’t, it can be as dark as a storm cloud. I saw a real rainbow one day during my trip, but I also like to think of it as a symbol of what I received.