“When a gift is deserved, it is no longer a gift; it is a payment.” I remember first hearing this statement as a teen, it’s a paraphrase of similar sayings. The words came to mind when an acquaintance showed off the engagement ring that her fiancé had given her a few days ago. I kept the thought to myself, but it lingered at the back of my mind yesterday afternoon and evening.
I soon also pondered how popular it is in some circles that people make a show of giving and helping others. This is a common practice that has been coming under public scorn lately–and rightly so. Superficial generosity becomes a technique to control people who have fallen into hard times and to elevate favorable public opinion of certain benefactors. Whereas authentic generosity does not harbor hidden agendas nor hunger for public praise of the giver in mind. Authentic generosity is a gesture meant to give unfortunate people a way to elevate themselves and become self-sufficient. Such generosity is neither a public relations ploy nor is it a payment for services expected or rendered.
Loving and caring generosity is an expression of people who possess healthy self-respect and respect towards others. They include others in their confidence, forgiveness, and inclusiveness–this quality is an aspect of people who have an overall generous nature because their acts of giving include not only material gifts, but also a feeling of communing with humanity as a whole.
“Generosity is not in giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is in giving me that which you need more than I do.”–Kahlil Gibran
Writers seem to discuss generosity from the viewpoint of the benefactors. It is less common to hear or read about it from the viewpoint of the recipients. This is a touchy subject in our hierarchical world. Recipients of charity are often expected to express public displays of gratitude in front of the camera to play their part in the public relations efforts of their benefactors. This is especially awkward if the gifts are things that the recipient does not need nor want. Such gifts are granted without consulting and discussing the actual needs of the receiving parties.
Generosity is governed by subtlety. It is an act of kindness that is tempered by shared respect, mutual humility, and no expectations.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes activist, actor, essayist, novelist, and poet, James Baldwin. “It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.”