Think of the most generous person you know. If you were to tell me their story, I have no doubt that they have been through some pretty heavy stuff in their life. Yet, somehow, they have made it through all of that and still have a generous mindset.
The reason is that generosity is forged in the fire of adversity.
Not everyone who goes through life challenges emerges as a generous warrior, but the ones that do are very special. Because their generosity is birthed from empathy. They know what it is like to go through difficulties, and they also know how important it is to have people around you who can support you during those times, so they are looking for ways to do that for other people.
As we look across our world we see so many people in need, suffering under the weight of global issues outside of their control. It can be overwhelming because each person has a name, a story, desires for what they want in life, and a potential that is yet to be discovered.
It is empathy that keeps us from becoming overwhelmed and instead, drives us towards generosity. Towards action. Towards seeing each person and seeking to understanding what life is like for them.
Empathy is generosity. Just ask your generous friend.
One of the greatest things that we can offer humanity is empathy; a sense of understanding and share the feelings of someone else. Often empathy can be a challenge as many of our human experiences differ from each other, depending on our gender, age, ethnicity and life experiences. All this means that for many, we simply cannot begin to understand how other people experience the world.
Among many other terrible things, the Coronavirus has brought us a sense that we are all in it together. Its effect is not just on one country, people group or race, the effect on all of us is the same. Suddenly, empathy is not that difficult. I can understand what you are going through because I am going through the same thing, or a very similar thing.
How we choose to respond to that is vital. In this moment I can do very little to help those suffering in Italy, or in other states of even other suburbs. But I can help my street.
We live in a small cul-de-sac with 7 houses, so earlier this week my wife took it upon herself to connect with each of our neighbours to see how they are. We don’t usually see much of them – it is typical suburbia, protected by our roller doors on the garage, but we got thinking if we are finding this time challenging, how is everyone in our street going. What if we have a surplus of something that they desperately need but can’t get hold of? So, she went door to door, met everyone – got over the embarrassment of not doing so 18 months ago when we moved in, and collected all their contact details. She then distributed the list to everyone so we can all stay in contact. Not a lot has changed since then, but I have to tell you, I don’t feel so alone. I know that if we get stuck without something urgent, I can reach out to those around us. I also know that those closest to us won’t be suffering in silence. We are all going through the same experience.
Empathy is the birthplace of generosity. When we can understand what other people go through, we can bring the best that humanity has to offer, a generous act.