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Friday, 14 May 2010

Random acts of generosity (part 2 of 2) + giveaway!

Following on from my previous musings I did a bit of research...

What is generosity exactly? Giving time? Money? Things? Attention? Encouragement? Emotional availability? Some say it is an essential human virtue.

Apparently Bill Gates thinks “Antiquated ideas of kindness and generosity are simply bugs that must be programmed out of our world. And these cold, unfeeling machines (his computers) will show us the way”.  I hope he was joking when he said that.

I prefer the words of Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran who said “Generosity is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.”

The word ‘generosity’ derives from the Latin ‘generosus’ which means ‘of noble birth’, but since the seventeenth century it has become more closely associated with ‘a nobility of spirit’. I like this definition: 'the virtue of giving good things to other people, freely and with abundance’.

According to Frank Howard Clark real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out. We have a long history of random acts of generosity – from giving secret valentines to outpourings of support in the aftermath of a natural disaster to people we’ve never met, and probably never will. 

Apparently over $6 million has been ploughed into scientific research about the nature of generosity by the University of Notre Dame’s ‘Science of Generosity Initiative’, and even Oprah has a word to say on it.  According to this article in O Magazine, "Simply contemplating generosity boosts your immunity. When Harvard students watched a film about Mother Teresa tending to orphans, the number of protective antibodies in their saliva surged; when the students were asked to focus on times when they'd been loved by or loving to others, their antibody levels stayed elevated for an hourand People suffering from chronic pain report decreased intensity, and less disability and depression, when they reach out to others in similar pain. In one study, pain was reduced by 13%”. 


In this short video Suze Orman has some interesting words to say about the connection between generosity and values and how, if we are so busy clinging on to what we have, our hands are not open to receive. She argues that the act of giving forces you to open your hands to be ready to welcome other things in.  Some would argue that that means we are giving only to receive, but I get where she is coming from - and without willing recipients, it is hard to give.

Random acts of generosity make me smile.  I'm going to do them more often 

And here are some of the random acts of generosity I have found on the web, sharing the love, just because…


So, in the spirit of generosity, what will be my gift to you? Well seeing how much fun the last giveaway was, I am going to do another one. This time the prize is some magic soap 'The Masters' Savon Special Artiste', which cleans anything off your hands after painting – oil, gouache, ink, acrylic, whatever. I bought it from this lovely little ancient art supply shop in Paris. To enter all you need to do is leave a comment below, saying what generosity means to you, or sharing a link to some other generosity out there on the web.

Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”
Albert Camus


  1. Ahhhh love this Beth... I believe that people think of $$ when we say generosity... eventhough most people are headdown in their blackberrys, ipods most of the day(i mean i see them everyday, they must be getting terrible neck ache!) there are still pockets of kindness and generous behaviour out there.

    People always ask "why are you doing that, whats your motive or hidden agenda" when someone shows an act of random kindness or is generous to another. That worries me that people think that way as it also deters them worrying what others may think! I like to think there is recurring good karma out there and that we can pass it on.....

    Generosity & kindness warms our hearts and those we are generous to, why would we not participate? I watched as many walked passed this old lady struggling down a huge flight of stairs with her trolley the other day, ignoring her as they scurried along, so i just went over and carried her trolley down the stairs for her. No effort on my part, but that lady, you would of thought I did the most amazing thing, she was so thankful and blew me air kisses - how cute was that? It made me angry no-one helped her, but both she and I felt good. :-)

    I'm confident that people have generous hearts, they just need to remind themselves to connect with others and look up from their darn electronics.

  2. oh i just re-read my rant above!...boy i sound negative.... so I will just say that the most recent act of generosity i witnessed was from my British Expat group here in NYC who offered complete strangers their beds when some were stranded away from family and friends because of the volcano.....that warmed my heart to the core. xxx

  3. What could be more generous than growing? I've been growing and planting lately. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. What are you going to do with all those cucumbers? Give them to your friends and loved ones and cucumberless neighbours. I read a really inspiring book lately:
    "The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops but the cultivation and perfection of human beings."
    Masanobu Fukuoka is right on!

  4. About 10 years ago Shruti and I went to Zanzibar fro 3 week holiday. we craved some local dishes which we knew about but the hotels only served 'tourist food' Anyway we asked our guide where we could get this particular dish. And guess what, he invited us to his modest but loving home and we ate with his family. he even sent his son to the nearest village a couple of miles away because I must have mentioned I preferred lime juice with this dish.And he wouldnt hear of taking anything for it. It will be on eof my most endearing memory of my trip to that beaurtiful place.

  5. Love these stories of generosity. Growing veg and flowers is such a great example. You know when you plant the seeds that you are never gonig to need 300 courgettes or 60 punnets of cherry tomatoes, so it must be with the intention to give away that you plant. What a lovely thought.
    And how much of a gift it is to be invited into someone's home, especially when travelling as you feel so much closer to the country and its people.
    As Louise says, pass it on!

  6. dear beth
    where did i get so far behind on your beautiful writing?
    where do i start my comments?
    it.s 2:30 in the morning here in america. i couldn.t sleep.
    and sometimes the soul just knows what you need.
    i am SURE it was beckoning me to your blog, for this is exactly what i needed.
    i LOVED reading your quotes and thoughts on generosity.
    how wonderful is it that there is research going on about the BENEFITS of that.
    am i breaking the rules if just for myself, i call generosity...
    charity or service?
    i guess never looked at myself as a generous person. but i had a mother who was the epitome of "charity" and she graciously taught me by example her whole life...i was her only daughter and i followed her around like a puppy as she took meals to the elderly and visited the sick, befriended the friendless, played on the floor with children, ran errands for the shut.ins, drove old "driverless" ladies to their hair appointments, sent anonymous cards of love and thought to those who probably received none....
    just to name a few.
    i am so grateful for her example and for her advice to her daughter...
    "chrissy, whenever you are feeling down or blue or sorry for yourself, nothing will fix it faster than getting right out and doing something for someone else!"
    i guess i would have to say that generosity....for that
    the little things we do for others REALLY ARE the big things!
    oh thank you beth.
    thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    i think i can go back to bed now and sleep with peaceful dreams of how i can "serve" someone when the sun wakes up!

    huge hugs.

  7. beautiful! It helps to re-focus me! Its so true, until you get out of your own headsand start giving to others, you are not fulfilled and satisfied...I can get myself in a rut if I stay in my own little world, but when I am giving,loving and gererous with my heart...then I am truely happy....Check out my last post!

    Love your blog!

  8. Ahh ladies, ladies. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Chrissy, I can't believe you said you don't think of yourself as a generous person. When I was writing part 1 of this post, I was thinking of YOU when I wrote about all the bloggers who so generously celebrate other people's success. You are the queen of doing that!

  9. Oh, a recent act of generosity is when a girl I know (she is 16!) was driving home and had her trailer trailer hooked up with her horses in it. All of a sudden she heard a "pop!" and figured out that the tire on the trailer had blown! And all of this was happening on the highway! She pulled over to the side of the road, and being just her and her mom, she called her Dad to ask him what to do. That wasn't needed though, because soon enough a nice older man came up to help them change the tire and check all of the others! They tried to pay him, but he refused, only asking that they keep him in their prayers that night!

  10. So far I have met many generous people in my first 8 months...the nurses who helped me in hospital, my grannies who knitted me lovely warm blankets, my Auntie Beth who travels across the country (and sometimes even across the world) to give me cuddles, my neighbour who gave me a cool rocking Moses basket, the people in town who pause from their lives and make funny faces at me to make me smile. But the most generous person I know is my mummy who stays up mashing my dinners and changes most of my nappies..(maybe she needs the soap you are giving away most!)
    By the way anyone who wants to borrow my Captain Banana ball or my Russian doll style stacking cups can borrow them...


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