I love a good spreadsheet. It helps me keep my life in order by tracking the important numbers. As a number gets changed in one cell, the total is impacted by the exact amount of that change. It is neat and tidy, and precise.
Not everything in life is measured by numbers. You can’t calculate the importance of a specific relationship that you have by allocating a number to it, or a regular activity that you are involved in, or even someone’s presence. Well, I guess you could try, but it would be completely arbitrary and cold. Much of our life is not neat and tidy, and most definitely not precise. (Which is bad news for my spreadsheet.)
Generosity is one such area. We can try and calculate the cost of giving money away in light of how much less we now have, compared to the tax deduction that it has given, but that is an arbitrary and cold process. That is not how generosity works.
Generosity is when you give something away, instead of seeing it as a financial loss for you and a financial gain for someone else, it becomes a compounding transaction creating a positive impact for everyone involved, those who are close to it and not involved, and those who hear about it later. It increases exponentially.
Generosity breeds generosity. It is not possible to run out if it. It is not a finite resource. It is one of a very few things that increase every time you use it. You will never reach the end of generosity because when you think you are there, you will discover more generosity.
I am a fan of the West Wing – the TV series that ran from 1999 to 2006 staring Martin Sheen as the President of the USA (wouldn’t we love him in the White House now?).
My favourite character is Josh Lyman. A witty, emotionally unstable, and hugely intelligent deputy chief of staff. There is one scene where he is waiting on polling numbers after the President gave a speech and there was delay after delay, even a blackout, pushing back the arrival of the data. To which he eventually yelled in growing frustration, to no one in particular, “I WANT THE NUMBERS!!!”. Did I mention emotionally unstable?
I have found myself saying the same thing every day over the last few weeks. Each afternoon I have patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, waited for the official announcement of the latest Covid-19 numbers. The new cases, total cases, the number of deaths and the number of people who have recovered. I have been hanging on every figure, every speech, every news article which might give me numbers, or at least some insight into what the numbers mean. Are we flattening the curve? Am I doing social distancing right? When can I get my hair cut?
Why? Why am I so invested?
I think it’s about progress. Getting somewhere. I have been looking for some indication of what we have been doing as a country over the last few weeks (has it really only been weeks? March was the longest decade ever), is actually making a difference. I long for a feeling of progress to make sense of the sacrifices we are all making. Tell me we are getting somewhere, and I will dig in and keep going. I will stay home longer. I will social distance. I will flatten that curve. But if I can’t see a point to it, or there is no sense of progress then you will have a hard time telling me to stay put.
Progress is vital in all areas of life. If we feel like we are moving towards something, then it is incredibly motivating, and we can take the next step. We can endure the most difficult and frustrating of circumstances if we feel like we are making progress.