Saturday, July 6, 2013

That Fear of Generosity

So, I'm standing in line at Starbucks (yep, guilty pleasure time) and the young lady in front of me is paying for her beverage. Searching her wallets, her pockets, the compartments of her handbag, etc., literally looking in any possible place where coins might hide.  She was searching for quite some time, effectively holding up the line and causing me to feel a bit uncomfortable for her.  So I offered to help. "Can I help? What do you need?" My wallet open and ready to pitch in the necessary coinage.  She looked a bit startled, glanced at me with furrowed brow and uttered a forceful "no", then promptly went back to searching.  The perky young gal behind me chimes in "I'm sure she meant to say 'no thank you'."  I just smiled at both of them and stiffened up, feeling like a creature from another planet.

The undercurrent of hostility in this young lady's reply to my offer baffles me.  What is so wrong with a generous and friendly gesture?  It was clear from my tone that I was not rushing her, nor impatient with her. I was simply trying to "pay it forward", as they say, and offer a small token of generosity to a complete stranger.  I went from feeling magnanimous and kind to feeling naive and a bit gauche in a  matter of milli seconds.  I shrugged it off and ordered my daily dose of green tea addiction and walked to the waiting area at the end of the bar.  Here she is again.  She avoids eye contact and moves out of my aura to wait over near the napkin bar.  Again, I am baffled and feeling like I've done something wrong.  Weird.

What is it that is so scary about generosity?  I found myself thinking of this on the way home.  I myself have been guilty of such an ungrateful and proud response.  I will never forget it.  I had a very kind-hearted friend once go shopping with me to buy a gown for a black tie event.  She graciously offered to pay for these two dresses because I could not decide between the two and my budget was meager, to say the least. I adamantly refused, as pride kicked in and my do-it-your-self-sufficiency bristled up my spine.  I did not need a hand out and would not even consider letting her pay for my dresses.  A mutual friend who was with us at the time said to me, "Duvall, why can't you just accept a gift with joy in your heart?"  And I was floored!  I stood in complete silence as I realized that my adamant refusal was potentially hurtful to my very generous friend who only wished for me to have lots of great reasons to get dressed up in my near future.  Wow.  I gave in then and there - "you're right - you're absolutely right," and we proceeded to check out.  I walked out with two dresses and two very dear friends that day. 

I learned that giving is, in fact, a gift to the giver.  It feels good to be generous.  Not allowing someone to be generous to us can be hurtful and offensive.  Pride is one of the seven deadly sins and its lashing hurts, sometimes piercing the skin of those who only want to do something kind for us.

I like to be generous and I recognize the lift it gives my spirit whenever I commit an act of generosity.  Sure, I understand the impulse to shy away from it or say "no thank you - I couldn't possibly accept".   But now, I try instead to say thank you, and really mean it!  To accept a gift with joy in my heart.  It is amazing how good we BOTH can feel when we simply open ourselves to the act of giving AND receiving.  Two mood lifts for the price of one, so to speak.  ;-)

Along a somewhat similar line of thinking, I once wrote a poem about learning to love without need.  Adoring, offering, receiving, enjoying without the weight of obligation or neediness.  Somehow it rings a bell and feels relevant here...

Without Need

Like the Sun
with rays of outstretched arms,
I can love you
            and not want.

Shine my fingertips across your skin
reflecting all your whiteness
allowing shadow underneath, accepting;
the powerful tenderness of Touch
soft, deep shade of bluest Trust.

Like a Circle
with its never-ending band, complete;
I can lack
no thing from you
wrap myself around
just to glory in your you-ness
breathe in the blossoms of your Spring smiles
mourn the winter in your eyes
catch the falling leaves of truth you speak
melt in my desire for your summer heat
revolving all around me.

Centered, I can see all sides of you
captured by your gravity;
swells my soul
to recognize your melody 

You are

and   All That Is

in Me


in the vastness of your presence
and sings my life for me!

©2013 DOS
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