Last week, while on vacation in the South (a few days before hurricane Irene upended our plans), I’d managed to pull down a venetian blind in the house we were renting and I needed a Phillips head screw to fix it.
I made my way to the hardware store, picked out five screws of varying sizes, and told the owner that I’d like to buy a cheap screwdriver to screw in one of these screws.
Rather than sell me a $10 screwdriver and charge me another buck for the screws, he lent me a screwdriver and asked me to bring it back. I then reached into my pocket to pay for the screws and he said, “Don’t worry about it.”
That just about made my day.
And it got me thinking, again, about generosity, about how our analytic minds mess with us so much when we are steeped in so many intelligent discussions about philanthropy and the best ways to practice it. It’s easy, when we are talking about giving to others, to critique generosity and soft-headed or impractical. But I bet there’s not a person out there who, when someone is irrationally kind to them, stops to say, “well, that didn’t make an awful lot of sense, and that person shouldn’t have been so generous to me.”
It’s like the old adage about comedy and tragedy: comedy is seeing someone walking down the street fall into a manhole; tragedy is when I stub my toe.
When we talk about ourselves, and our own experiences, there’s no amount of generosity that feels like too much. When we talk about others, everything is supposed to be bounded and thought out and make sense.
Generosity is a way of walking through the world and spreading joy. Nothing more, nothing less.
It’s up to you to decide how much you want of that in your life.