From a reader who was kind enough to share this story.
When living in NYC I, like many others, was constantly bombarded by people asking for money, spare change, food if I happened to be carrying some. And like many I turned them all down.
I found myself working in mid-town for a year and on my way to the office each day I would pass a young homeless man just leaning again a non-descript building.
Nondescript man against a nondescript building not asking anyone for anything.
For the next six months I would give him $10, $5, $20, whatever I had with me, usually 2-3 days a week. On the days I had no cash I would buy him a sandwich and drink. It got to the point where I would ask him what he would like from deli and go get it.
He never said thank you, never bothered me if I was not able to give him anything. Other than the sandwich order we never spoke. To this day I wish I could have done more.
“To this day I wish I could have done more.” That’s the part of the story that gets to me almost as much as imagining this silent relationship in which the giver is asking for nothing in return.
3 thoughts on “Generosity excerpt”
I love your blog, but I’m not so sure about this post…
“It got to the point…” — How? Why? How could this “relationship” (though I wouldn’t call it that) get to any “point” without any substantive exchange between the two parties?
Is it really to much to expect a “thank you”?
I believe generosity — similar to mentorship — must be viewed as a two-way street. I’ll explain with a story.
During my senior year of high school, one of my older sisters lived at home and dated a wonderful guy at the time. Through a series of tragic events I won’t detail here, her boyfriend moved in with my sister — and, therefore, into our family home (liberal parents). He was a teacher and of a humble background, by no means “poor” but certainly not well off. By virtue of living with our family, he participated in most family meals and activities, seldom contributing financially (because he really couldn’t afford to). But every now and then, he’d take everyone out for ice cream or buy flowers for my mother. The point is that he’d do SOMETHING to demonstrate his appreciation for my family’s generosity.
All this is to say that the “nondescript” man in your reader’s story could have done SOMETHING as well. Something as small as saying “thank you” everyday.
We need a fundamental paradigm shift in this country of not just how we view generosity — but how we view relationships. The more mutual, the more effective.
I want to say I loved this story, and it’s a perfect one for today because this is my feeling about Halloween. Halloween has become much maligned in recent years and fewer and fewer folks open their doors to trick or treaters each year. I think this is a shame. This is your one opportunity every year to, with little inconvenience or bother to yourself, open your door to total strangers and give them something for the asking with no thought of anything in return. It is my Generosity Day. I don’t care how old they are, whether they are in costume (although I tease the ones that aren’t), whether they have babies, etc. They knock, they ask, I give. Done. I feel great, I love the interchange. I love seeing the moms and dads make them say thank you and make them say “trick or treat” even though they’ve long lost the meaning of those words or are too young to understand them. But even if they forget to say “thank you” I still feel good for giving.