The Year of Living Generously
About 6 minutes to read
Last week, two seemingly unrelated events occurred which taught me valuable lessons in living generously. You may be wondering why I need to learn about generosity at this stage of my life, well it’s simple, I believe that generosity is my guiding word for 2016 and that this will be the year of living generously.
I consider myself a very generous person and my sister refers to me as an extravagant giver. Therefore, when the word generosity came up as the theme and life lesson for 2016 I wondered what more could I possibly learn. I have a few sneaking suspicions but I am confident this topic shall evolve and expand for me throughout the year.
The First Incident of Living Generously
We were in the middle of an ice storm and the doorbell rang. As my office is in the attic of our house, I don’t run downstairs each time the doorbell rings but rather stick my head out the window and demand that the ringee identify themselves. This is especially effective when trying to avoid cult members and door-to-door sales men. However as I value my head and did not wish to incur an injury; I looked out the window and noticed the post van parked in front of our house.
Opening the door in noticed that we have a new post lady on our route and I chatted with her about that and the ice storm briefly. She was delivering a rather large and heavy package and other incidental letters and I commented that Sweetie had probably been online shopping again.
I was about to close the door again when she asked if she may use our toilet. I was momentarily surprised because this has never happened before and of course I agreed. Our guest toilet is next to the front door and I went into the kitchen while she was busy. She told me she was quite desperate for the loo and she then proceeded to really use our toilet. I was quite tickled by this incident, but remembered that generosity comes in many forms and I too had asked strangers along the Camino in Spain to use their toilet as I did not feel like urinating in the bush, so I can only imagine how desperate she was.
For many reasons this incident evolved into full-blown hilarity for me throughout the day and I looked forward to sharing the full tale with Sweetie when she arrived home. Hours later, I heard Sweetie coming into the house and shortly after heard her huffing and puffing up my spiral staircase into my office. The reason being she was carrying the heavy box. I wondered why she was bringing her shopping box into my office, which required such a huge effort, but she seemed quite excited.
Upon opening the box, she informed me that the purchases she had made for me had arrived and I was quite surprised, as I hadn’t asked her to purchase anything for me. We had randomly spoken about me buying new tracksuit pants and Sweetie had taken it upon herself to purchase them; most likely, because I am notoriously slack at buying myself clothes. However, I realised that the box was much heavier than it needed to be for only two tracksuit pants so I had to wonder.
You know how it is when your partner or someone else does a good deed for you and you suddenly feel the need to protest, to question why they went beyond the call of duty, “complain” that you had not really sanctioned their actions and that it’s all too much. Well to be very honest this was my first reaction and before I could open my mouth to start my usual shit I heard my inner voice say, “SHUT UP AND PAY ATTENTION!”
In a frenzy of post purchase euphoria Sweetie started whipping all the items out the box. She had ordered four pairs of tracksuit pants, two pairs being a different design. Additionally, there were two fleecy pullover type jackets, of which one fitted me really well and I liked a lot. For my sporting needs (or perhaps hers, I’m not so sure!) she purchased me water resistant winter hiking pants and last but not least was a super lightweight, breathable thermal jacket, which she presented with great relish.
After the first fleece jacket I found my voice and said, “Sweetie, how much did this all cost?” starting to budget in my head and see if I had the extra money. She summarily told me to shut up and after the water resistant pants, I tentatively asked if this was a gift. Dear Sweetie was beaming like a lighthouse and all the while, my inner voice was saying, “SHUT UP, AND PAY ATTENTION!” I realised that this was my turn to receive generously. That protests, and naysaying and comments were not required, all I needed to do was generously allow this lovely unexpected gift into my heart, mind and onto my body and to be generous about it. So often, our protestations erode the generous spirit in which something is given and this was not my job, I needed to receive. I simply put my arms around Sweetie, hugged her close, and thanked her for her lovely, generous, heartfelt gift.
The Second Incident of Living Generously
The following evening Sweetie returned home from work and I went downstairs to greet her. Frozen from the cold and ice storm, she was bouncing with excitement and energy.
I asked her what’s up and she informed me that she’d come from her parents as she had taken them grocery shopping. As her dad is still recovering from the operation to remove his stomach he is adapting to a new lifestyle and both parents require our assistance with simple tasks.
She informed me that while in the grocery store she also bought a few items, which she separated at the cashier to pay for. Her mom insisted that she pay for them and Sweetie started to debate the issue with her, as she did not want to allow her mom to buy the groceries. She told me that in that moment with her mom she suddenly remembered my behaviour from the previous evening, how I had not argued, protested, complained, or insisted that I pay for everything. She said that she was so grateful that I allowed her to present me with a generous gift and she instantly realised that she needed to allow her mom to be a blessing and a generous giver to her as well.
The Conclusion about Living Generously
It is still early days in 2016 and yet I feel that I am about to embark on an in depth, wonderful journey as I discover the wondrous complexities and truths about generosity.
From these two simple events, I have learnt that for me it is easy to give generously. Perhaps because it is of my choosing, I am in control, what is mine to give, I can give. Being generous, in my current understanding of myself, makes me happy and I can do this with relative ease.
Receiving generously is a different story all together. I don’t like feeling at someone else’s “mercy” or as if I am beholden to them for something. Receiving generously makes me vulnerable and in this vulnerability, I feel exposed and uncomfortable. As I have already written in my post The Joy of Extravagant Giving and Receiving “By not being an extravagant receiver, I disempower another from being an extravagant giver” and in doing so I rob them of their joy.
I am also required to be an example of generosity. Many times, we bash about in the world not really paying attention to how closely others are observing us, or how meaningful (both positively and negatively) our actions are to others. I realised that as I was learning my own lesson, really shutting my mouth and listening to my inner voice I was also paving the way for Sweetie, in a truly unconscious way, I was paying my own lessons in generosity forward, I was creating a knock on effect, creating ripples of generosity in the world.
I am excited to see how this unfolds and what else I will learn this year!
If you have enjoyed my story on generosity perhaps, you will also enjoy this story from LittleThings.com