Two items came to my awareness this morning within a few hours (via Twitter). They echo each other in my mind. They glow about generosity, and how that impacts our lives.
Opening the Heart to Strangers
I think it’s maybe easier to be financially generous, assuming we have funds to do so… than to be emotionally generous. Opening our hearts is vulnerable in a world that seems bent on broadcasting only the bad stuff. Yet it is the most rewarding move we can make in our lives… for ourselves first, though the generosity helps others as well.
Dealing with “Beggars” Has Changed
In the last 6-12 months in Lansing, there has been an increase in folks who stand at a street corner with a hand-lettered sign on cardboard. They ask for help… usually looking for work, but often with “anything will help” added.
It’s hard to dismiss these people with the label “Beggar.” They look like someone you might know at the bowling alley or coffee shop.
I know that I’m not the only person who goes around often with a wallet which is rather low on cash. I also know that I’m not the only person afraid that donations to strangers might turn into alcohol or recreation of one sort or another, rather than food. I’m big on helping, though.
Boston, Toronto, Chicago… My Experiences
When I’ve traveled in big cities I’ve found myself walking a sidewalk with leftovers from a restaurant meal, and being asked for money. It’s easy then, to offer my food. I’ve been asked for money in Flint, Boston, Lansing, and other places. I’ve felt really good to give food when I’ve had it.
In Lansing, I’ve given organic strawberries to a street-corner guy, once a chocolate bar, once some pumpkin seeds, once some tortilla chips. This week for the first time I’ve considered actually keeping something in the car I can give out, though I don’t know how to be sure it stays good in odd weather.
In a big city, I feel street performers–no matter how feeble–deserve at least a quarter as I walk by, just for putting themselves out there and doing the work. I also believe it’s good to give food to someone who says anything would be a help, no matter where I might be. (Lansing is such a commuter city that there are very few street performers… except for our one and only Guitar Man.)
After all, one can be hungry even when one has a home. And even someone fighting an addiction can benefit from food. (I’ve had my own weak points along the way, myself… no time for judging though I don’t want to support anyone’s habit.)
So this morning I first read an article by Sasha Dichter of Acumen Fund, talking about his “Generosity Experiment” and what came out of it… “Generosity Day.” Generosity Day is being heralded by many as a replacement for Valentine’s Day, and I love the idea.
Mr. Dichter writes about folks who participated. One story is that someone gave a rose to an older woman who was a stranger. She said that was the first flower she had ever received on a Valentines Day.
There are more examples and touching stories if you choose to read further. Here is the article:
How Many Ways Can We Be Generous in a Single Day?
He also gave a talk which is a video available on the TED Talk site. It’s not all of 20 minutes, and thought-provokingly worthwhile. View it here:
The Generosity Experiment
Mr. Happy Man
Johnny Barnes is 88 years old. He spends 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, greeting commuters. He wishes them a good day and tells them that he loves them. He blows kisses, and is genuinely sincere about it. I LOVE THIS GUY.
Mr. Barnes lives on Bermuda, a small island with fewer than 65,000 residents. (My medium-sized Capital city has 114,000 residents within the city limits.) On this small island, Mr. Barnes is known by all. If he misses a day, people flood the radio station with questions as to his well being.
Luckily, there is now a short documentary about him now. This allows his message to travel further than his small island. I love the interviews with passers-by who explain how Mr. Barnes has impacted their own lives.
This man is authentically happy to spread brotherly love. It’s worth the 10 minutes to watch the video. I’m glad I did.
Mr. Happy Man video on Vimeo
Consciously Looking for the Good News
The news is bent on giving us bad stuff these days. Even though the world is safer now than it has been in decades, and keeps getting safer, we can’t see it. Parents are afraid for their kids “these days” and we are closing our hearts to folks we don’t know yet.
No amount of protection can save us from being human. We will hurt sometimes, we will have bad things happen. We will not live forever, no matter how careful we are.
However, the good in humankind is still there if we don’t shut it out of ourselves. Go ahead, read and watch these pieces. See if your heart warms as mine did. I wish this for you.
Hugs. Yes, I do love you, too. I wouldn’t take the time to write this if I didn’t.