I used to think that generosity was a money thing, that you had to have
‘enough’ money to be able to give it away. Like all those foundations that
sponsor the PBS shows I watch. This was, of course, before I realized
how much some people wanted to hang on to their money, even if it looked
to me as if they had enough.
Over time I learned that generosity is more a state of spirit rather than of
finance. I came to understand that some of the best things given to or
shared with people were not material ones; gifts of time and attention have
substantial value. I certainly have been on the receiving end of that kind of
patience and consideration. It can occasionally take me a few moments to
verbalize my thoughts, more than a few moments if I’m being honest. Not
so very long ago, one of the members of my church asked me a question,
the answer to which required a little internal editing. They were patient
enough to wait for me to answer, didn’t ask any questions to prompt me or
start to fidget. Their patience gave me the opportunity to find my better
self. That was a nice gift from him.
When I rode the trains in Atlanta, I carried a few dollar coins in my pocket,
the ones that come out of the Marta machines as change. I knew I would
be approached by panhandlers on the train or in the station. My brother-in-
law would chide me for aiding and abetting what he was sure were their
bad habits, since that was his experience. (I did point out to him that I gave
away less money than he spent on cigarettes each week.) But really, it
was because I felt bad when I ignored a request for help that I could
answer. That small act was a gift I gave myself.