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.
When something touches our heart, we give. We respond to what creates an emotion. The greatest example of that has been the last few weeks when we have seen other Aussie families, people just like us, maybe someone that we know, or a friend of a friend, needing to evacuate because of an enormous fire or fires bearing down on their home. Many have lost their home; some have lost their lives. When this sort of tragedy happens to those that look like me, sound like me and, by sheer chance of choice of residence, could be me, it moves me to respond. So, we begin to imagine what it would be like if that was us – and if that did happen to me, I would really want someone to help.
The outpouring of generosity, volunteering, financial and emotional support, has been nothing short of extraordinary. Some have given out of their plenty, but many have given out of there little. People are working extra shifts and donating their pay for that day, business are donating their profits and entire communities are rallying together.
What does this tell me?
In the darkest of times it is generosity that shines the light. When we act for the benefit of someone else it brings out the best in us and our country, and it breaks down the harmful, artificial barriers that we put up between groups of Australians.
During times like these I am reminded that, no matter where we live, we are all one tragedy away from being forced from our homes, running for our lives and needing help from a stranger. It may not feel like that to you now, but I am sure 6 weeks ago thousands of Australians would never have imagined it either.
If we can take that attitude of humility with us into this next decade then Australia will continue to be a very generous nation indeed.