I’m sure none of us are strangers to giving or even being generous. It’s part of being human… sending gifts on birthdays... helping out with a bit of DIY… taking time to listen to a friend’s problems. For most of us it’s what we do with our friends & families and it’s rewarding. We often don’t think about it being an act of generosity.
Even when we look to give our time or money to strangers, say through voluntary support or charitable donations, we still tend not to talk about our acts as being generous.
The meaning of generosity
Perhaps take a moment to reflect on the meaning of gen·er·os·i·ty :
- Liberality in giving or willingness to give one’s money, time, etc.
- Nobility of thought or behavior; magnanimity.
- Free from pettiness in character & mind
- Amplitude; abundance; plentiful
I’d forgotten the word's Latin origins. It derives from generōsus, which means "of noble birth". Originally, being generous was literally a way of complying to nobility. Over time this origin has been lost but the sentiment hasn’t. Generosity as an act of giving is still seen by many as an act of humanity.
The generosity of strangers
The nature of the Trainers Kit Bag “Property Trading Game” game requires you to perform tasks. Sometimes these involve asking strangers for information or help. Throughout our day we were struck by just how spontaneously people would help us with what were sometimes quite bizarre requests…
- The gentleman on Pall Mall whom we asked for a business card. He’d have happily given one to us but he’d just given a man who had had his car clamped £20 for a train fare and had given him his last business card so he could post the money back. His view was that he wanted to help and he may never see that £20 pound again but that wasn’t really the point. You had to trust in human nature. A very genuine and lovely person.
- The armed policeman dashing out for his lunch break who gladly stopped and posed for a smiling “team photo” before heading into McDonalds for his “fix”.
- The endless shopkeepers, hotel staff & theatre box offices who took time to listen to our strange requests and helped us where they could. Yet, we bought nothing from them apart from a 50p “Sights of London” pencil.
- Perhaps most surprisingly was @RichardAArnold. Having been spotted walking past us on the Strand, @StirTheSource ran after him and he gladly helped us with our much needed celebrity photo and autograph. He took time to talk about what we were doing and shared a laugh. Firstly though he went to the bank, then came back and found us, all on his birthday with a hangover. That’s generosity!
On reflection, it’s perhaps not surprising that a day that started with the generosity of Trainers Kit Bag, continued in that same vein throughout. Even to the end of the day when someone I’d just met for the first time asked “Is there anything I can do to help you?”.
This post isn’t about how to give or what to give. It’s more of a recognition that we all give willingly and generously. Perhaps we need to be asked, nicely of course, but we are all qualified in the art of giving. If you feel you’ve not practiced this art for a while then have a go – it’s very easy.
“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”