What does it mean to you? Is it the same as giving? Is it more than giving? What exactly is it and how do we know it when it’s happening?
My grandmother was a generous person.
As a child, I remember walking to her house with my parents for Sunday lunch. Being working class, salt of the earth type people, money was tight, but the meal was wholesome and hearty. It usually consisted of the typical English dinner of roast meat, potato, two veg and gravy. This would be followed by a dessert of some kind – usually of the sponge pudding or jelly variety, served with custard.
My grandmother was a sociable woman, unlike my grandfather who was extremely introverted – give him a garden patch in solitude any day. But my grandmother, oh how she used to love to have a good natter with a friend or two. And so it was that it was not uncommon that just as were about to sit down for our Sunday lunch people would knock at the door for an impromptu visit.
My grandmother would never turn anyone away. The food would just be redistributed between the amount of people sitting at the dinner table. Once, so many people stopped by that all that was left on our plates were three peas each. It didn’t matter, Nanna just buttered more bread and cooked more mashed potato. No-one ever went without. Everyone was always welcome.
Looking back, I realise that this was my first lesson in generosity.
Giving is all well and good and giving when you have plentiful is easy.
Generosity, on the other hand, to me, is a different kettle of fish altogether. It means giving even when you really can’t afford to give, and that can mean time instead of money. It is also means giving without strings.
My grandmother didn’t make a song and dance about the redistribution of food. She just got on and did it. And she loved it. Not only was she generous at the table, but she was generous of spirit too.
Of course, I now realise that it is by design that some of those people timed their impromptu visits to coincide with my grandmother’s roast dinner, and I am certain she knew it too. I would also wager that Sunday meal was the only cooked meal a couple of those people got all week.
And the tradition continued. My mom would always welcome people to the table. I had friends’ parents who made me wait in the lounge whilst they ate their dinner (which in retrospect seems so mean now) but my mom welcomed everyone. When people would protest, she would hush them, saying it wasn’t any trouble at all. And for her it wasn’t. Food and care were her love language. It gave her life meaning.
And now, as Christmas approaches, I think of all the tables that will be filled with people, laughing and loving, but wonder how busy our lives have become that we forget those that need our love and generosity the most.
My parent’s table would often be filled with recovering alcoholics, early in their recovery, who had lost their families due to their addiction, showering them with food and love. As a teenager, I used to resent the endless cups of tea I was forced to make for these people, ruining my Christmas day. Now I look back and think of how lucky I was to be subjected to, to be born to, such generous parents.
I find myself thinking about City Life, an organisation that opens its doors on christmas day to the homeless so that they may eat a beautifully cooked christmas meal, only made possible by volunteers that leave their own loved ones in order to cook for and serve the homeless on the 25th of December. This is what true generosity means.
As I sit down at my Christmas table with my friends and family, I will think of my mom and grandmother, and imagine them sitting wherever it is souls go, around a table, with many other souls, and I shall salute them. I shall salute them for the generosity they brought to this world. And I shall salute all those people around the world that make this a better place to live in through their kindness and generosity; who make an enormous difference to the people around them through nothing more than small gestures that warm the heart.
Generosity is something that can not be bought, or given, it just is. It comes from a place within the soul that requires no reciprocation. It just wants to help its fellow man, to ease his pain, to help him find joy, to help him on the journey of living. Generosity is kindness and compassion melded with action. It is at its heart true humanitarianism. And thank goodness it exists. For without it the world would not be a very nice place to be.
Until next time,