“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” – Khalil Gibran
From Kindness, we move on to Generosity.
The first person who ever taught me the fundamentals of generosity was my mother. She insisted on carrying out the values she had learned from her father, the town judge, who taught everyone that generosity had absolutely nothing to do with material wealth, and everything to do with the spirit. Lolo believed in opening up his home and kitchen to those in need, taking in foreign missionaries and guiding them on local customs, introducing them to the right people, and learning about their world. He loved to talk to people, tell stories, and when he wasn’t behind the bench dispensing justice, he was most in his element in the kitchen, making sure everyone had something to eat.
It was with this family philosophy that Mommy raised me with, including me in all the volunteer work she did in Kenya, Mexico and the Philippines. She continued her father’s legacy of being generous with her time, her kitchen, her advice, her emotional support, her faith, but most importantly, her laughter.
Generosity of time, spirit and laughter is a difficult lesson to learn, especially when contradicted by social norms of being wary of strangers, keeping to yourself, and convinced that giving monetary assistance once a year to an orphanage or home for the aged is a sufficient definition that will appease your social responsibilities and conscience. As I grew older and got into development work, I also learned that generosity of knowledge was just as important – transfer of skills, especially life skills, that will help the other person rise above the darkness. This is when I understood the difference between charity and development work – you teach, you share, you learn to respect the humanity of the other, understand their story and be proud to share it.
It is not easy to accept that generosity is based on humility and faith, about levelling the playing field and not trying to outdo the others. In my book, anyone who is not willing to think in terms of family and community, and prefers to view the world entirely through a selfish, narcissistic tunnel vision is setting themselves up for a bitter and lonely life. True wealth in this world lies in the ability to laugh in every situation, find the humour in the mud, and stare a problem in the face, nose-to-nose, and wink at it with a grin. I have learned to do that, and that is my secret to remaining grounded and calm in spite of being flooded by one thing or another.
I have the privilege of belonging to an intimate circle that I can run to in any situation, call or text when in dire need or am simply having a bad day. These soul siblings and family generously share laughter, time, tears, recipes, videos, frustrations, advice, encouragement, the list is endless. In short, they are the living, breathing definition of generosity, and that makes me the richest woman in the world. It boils down to having a sense of integrity, authenticity and resilience that radiates from within, and this is the kind of generosity we need more of in this world, during the trouble times that we are currently experiencing.
My generosity lessons all started with Mommy, and for that I thank her with every beat of my heart. So today, on her death anniversary, I light candles in her honour not out of sadness or grief, but out of gratitude and love, and a promise to continue her legacy of generosity of spirit and laughter.