The World of the Generous

“I’ve done four lots of isolation”. My Uber driver was chatty. She was a lovely, grandmother type, who seemed to really enjoy driving strangers to the airport. As the discussion predictably turned to the pandemic and it’s impact on our lives, she casually mentioned that she had driven a handful of people who turned out to be COVID positive, and before close contact restrictions were changed, was required to isolate for 14 days, four times, in her room.

It struck me that for many, the world has shrunk in the last few years. For some, the world has been the size of a bedroom for periods of time.

“How did you make it through?” I asked.

“You just find a way”, she stoically replied.

“Not everyone does”, I thought.

My favourite quote at the moment is “no matter where you go, there you are”. This, seemingly pointless phrase, carries with it some profound weight. Because if you find yourself in isolation, or any challenging life situation, you will not be struck by new problems. It will just magnify things that you are struggling with already. If you are feeling lonely, or are lacking purpose, or are self medicating, isolation will make that worse. You can’t escape from you.

There is a way to get out of your own head. To help stop the rumination and downward spirals which seem to make your world feel smaller and smaller.

Generosity.

Yep. Being generous. An old proverb says ‘the world of the generous gets larger and larger whilst the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller’.

Being generous to those around you increases. Focusing only on yourself, being caught up in your own world, being self centred, leads to a small world.

Your world can grow even if you find yourself in isolation.

When You Win

Why does it seem that those with money seem to attract more money? Is it something supernatural, are they using “the Secret” or are they just very smart with handling their money already, so that when they get more it adds to what they already have?

There is a long list of people who have won the lottery and changed their financial lives dramatically, only to spend it all and end up back where they started from a few years later.

It makes sense when you think about it, because money doesn’t change you, it just makes you more of who you already are. How you are today will be how you are tomorrow regardless of what material changes happen for you.

If you are greedy already, if you are stingy already, if you are generous already, then getting a lump sum of money will only make you more of that thing. Once you get a lump sum of money it is too late to become something else. You may be able to fool yourself and others for a bit, and act generously temporarily but that will fade and your true nature will come out. The work needs to happen before you get it.

So, if you are waiting until you win the lottery to learn how to be generous you are fooling yourself and setting yourself up for a long and lonely life of being stingy.

Don’t wait. Do the work now and start your journey of generosity.

Don’t Be Stingy.

I feel the tension at this time of year. Often the news will report on how many billions of dollars that Australians spend on Christmas related paraphernalia, gifts, food etc. and it is hard to stomach. Whilst giving gifts to each other is great, the sheer enormity of some of the unnecessary stuff that we buy sets my thought process into a negative place where I imagine what that money could do if it was spent in other ways. How much emergency aid and relief it could give, how many small loans could be distributed to those living in poverty so they can start a business, or how many refugees that could house. We could choose to put our money towards these things, but we choose to spend it on Christmas. That’s what we want to do.

The tension I feel is related to celebrations and how important they are in building relationships, strong communities and social capital. It is incredibly valuable to celebrate the annual festivals that we have in our calendar, because that is a part of our culture and makes up some of our identity.

So I sit with the tension.

Then I realise that it is ok that this tension exists. Because it is not necessary for us to choose between the two options. We don’t have to be generous with our money to care for the poor at the cost of celebrating. We also don’t have to celebrate Christmas and leave the poor outside, cold and hungry. We can do both.

There is a strong Jewish tradition which encourages the people, when celebrating festivals, to do so with your family, friends and household, and to extend it even further than that.

“This festival will be a happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows from your towns.” Deuteronomy 16:14

They have a good balance. One that says we have the freedom to celebrate and enjoy the festivities together without the feeling of guilt, because this is good for us, our families and our community. At the same time, we can find ways to be generous to the poor in our celebrations. How this is done is non-prescriptive. Some people I know buy gifts that empower the poor on behalf of others, others host countless people for a Christmas meal, and still others volunteer their time on Christmas day. What it looks like for you is your call. But let me encourage you to find a nice balance this year, where you can celebrate and be generous to the poor at the same time.

So, don’t be stingy with your celebrations, and don’t be stingy with your generosity this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!