“Generosity is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.”–Khalil Gibran
The other day I picked up one of my books by Khalil Gibran and came across the above quote. It came to me that often times, what passes for generosity, really is nothing of the sort.
“He who gives what he would as readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self sacrifice.”–Henry Taylor
I asked the manager of one of the local thrift stores about the overhead and other costs of operating a charity retail outlet. He said, apart from electricity and other utilities, their greatest expense is the garbage collection bill. He invited me to go with him to the rear of the store. He pointed out the dumpster bin. The thing is larger than my garage.
He noted that much of what they receive as “donations” are unfit for further use. Many of the items are worse than castoffs, they’re simply refuse and trash. The manager explains that before the donation process was supervised by employees, it was worse. The store used to have donation structures so that people could donate items 24/7. In effect, the store became a dumping ground for all manner of trash and garbage. Even with supervised donation, a good deal of time is spent separating junk from reusable goods that other people can utilize.
“It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”–John Steinbeck
What John Steinbeck mentioned, I’ve often pondered, too. As a nation and society, we often trot out the generosity on special occasions like holidays and Sundays. Or at least we make a grand show of it. But words are cheap. Our actions betray us all the time.
We are adrift in a sea of self-righteous indignation. A poverty of spirit shows itself by its intolerance of differences. This is manifested in the reaction against all forms of civil rights struggles in the USA and around the world. There is a sadly erroneous belief that if we grant freedom and liberty to all other people in equal measure, that somehow our own freedom and liberty will be diminished. Nothing is further from the truth than that notion.
We have all known the feeling of joy and freedom we feel when our generous impulses are carried through to completion. Our generousity with not only stuff, but with freedoms and equality come back to reward us with pure happiness and deep satisfaction.
“Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.”–Richard Dawkins
I hope we can all know the joy that comes to us with wise and generous love and acceptance of all humanity.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this line from Frank Howard Clark:
“Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.”