I never noticed the giant candy stand in the subway station, right past the turnstile, that I’ve walked past twice a day nearly every day for the past five years. Never noticed that I could grab a drink or a candy bar or a magazine, even though I’ve had more than 2,000 chances to do just that. The place didn’t register because I’m always rushing by it either on my way to or from work. My head’s down, there’s a crowd, I’m focused on other things.
Generosity Day (sign up here) is a little more than a month away, and I’m reminded of the original moment that kicked this whole thing off for me – the homeless person I walked by with my head down. The guy I didn’t notice because I was busy doing other things.
A lot of the online conversation about my generosity talk on TED focused on giving to the homeless, as in “does it make sense to give to the homeless?” That’s really not the point.
Rather, the point is that it’s high time we pick up our heads or, better yet, get out of our heads and really see the world around us. The point is that there are other human beings around us every day who are craving our acknowledgment, our support, our attention, our generosity – just as we crave it from them – yet we’ll never notice them if we let ourselves keep on walking by.
To me the first step in leading a generous life is actually stopping to notice the full world around us – and notice it in an open way, a non-judgmental way, a way that’s not governed by fear or by separation.
Heck, if I can walk by a guy selling Twix bars (I LOVE Twix bars!!) every day for five years, then I’m pretty sure that I need to let go of the tunnel vision.
The simple act of stopping and noticing is how we begin.