There is a lot going on in the world. This Tsunami in Japan is quite unbelievable -it’s like looking at a clip from Mark Gordon’s 2012 movie- but the biggest sign this is real is the silent acceptance and grace of the Japanese people. I can feel this through the numerous clips from Anderson Cooper’s reporting. I can see the sadness in the eyes of the medics and firemen/women.
And then there is Libya and Haiti, and then there is Zimbabwe. And so it goes on. How do we feel generous in the face of so many disasters?
© Sonja Nuttall 2008-2011
Where do we begin to help? I asked myself this the moment I saw the news last Friday about the Tsunami. I quickly remembered my grandmothers words about community service/philanthropy. They are particularly poignant today:
“Ask first what someone needs. Don’t assume. And then make sure others aren’t already providing those needs.”
And I quickly did what I’m used to:
- Researched which online tools are the best ones for helping find people?
- Who has set up a text donation (AT&T did).
- What exactly is American Red Cross asking for? Or Unicef?
- And then tweeting these facts and making my own personal donation, etc.
I now ask myself is this being generous? I don’t see it as generous; I see it as part of my value eco-system. I don’t know how to think differently to this and I assume everyone else probably thinks the same. I started to ask around yesterday if this was a correct assumption, and was rather alarmed when I saw that very few people had yet made any form of a donation or outreach to Japan. How could this be?
I realize Haiti is still on the forefront of peoples minds, and New Orleans isn’t too far away either, but truly…what makes some generous of spirit and others not? Is it upbringing? Environment? Culture? What? Of course it is very difficult to give if you don’t have, but then again, I have had the honor of eating in villages in Zimbabwe where one might say they had “nothing,” but I was given a very good staple meal. Now, I see this as generous and as part of the Shona culture, but it was also part of how I approached the village people – with respect, humility and above all lightness.
So… let’s look at a definition of “Generous:”
gen·er·ous : 1 archaic : highborn; 2 a : characterized by a noble or forbearing spirit: magnanimous, kindly b : liberal in giving : openhanded
The one word that stands out there for me is ‘spirit.’ Perhaps it is the nature of spirit which may help determine if this is generous or just part of being a connected chain of people.
I don’t know what is the answer to this for others, but for me I have chosen to think that if we have something we don’t really need, we can give it away and expect nothing. In all honesty, I like to receive a thank you if the person I am giving it to is capable of saying thank you. If they aren’t or I am giving it away anonymously then of course… it’s giving without expecting anything, so perhaps that moves into altruism.
The bottom line for me, I think, is that being generous is easy. It’s within us to be so.
Being altruistic is a little less easy, but its so wonderful when it genuinely happens.
My thoughts go out to all that are going through so much and who are relying on our natural ability to be generous.
To all the social media gurus out there, I’d like to ask: would it not be an amazing thing to use our generosity of spirit to market simple ways that people can help places like Japan and Haiti and Zimbabwe and and and? How much more would we be doing to help?
I feel so fortunate and grateful for all I have.