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.
8 thoughts on “The screwdriver”
You should tell us if you returned the screwdriver…:)
It was very generous of you to reinstall the blinds! Most would have just left it for the rental agency to repair.
Yes, of course I returned it!!!
Don’t you just love that? That would have made my week. I still smile when I think of a recent trip to a local coffee shop. My 2 year old has been obsessed with chocolate milk and marshmallows. He told the barista what he wanted, she went back to see if they had marshmallows, brought a little bowl to him, invited him back to let him watch her make it and then let him put the marshmallows in. Did she have to do that? Nope. But, it was sweet and made his day…and mine:)
Nice story. If you are ever in Portland, Oregon I’ll be happy to lend you a screwdriver. Metaphorically, there’s always a set of venetian blinds to be fixed.
Fantastic way to take a personal story with broader implications. This exchange reminds me of an organization I saw in good magazine… neighbor bartering…
Eric, thanks. When I make it there, I’ll be happy to hang a proverbial blind.