Generosity of Spirit

Everyone could use a little kindness.

Tomorrow is Spread Goodness Day! I love this annual event, so much so that I have written about it here, here, and here. I thought I would give you a day to get yourself into the mindset, because we’re all in the throes of pandemic stress lately, and it’s not a good look. I doesn’t hurt to be emotionally prepared to get your goodness on.

The other day, I asked someone to do me a favor. It was a minor thing, because I hate asking people for help. I only do so in times of desperation. It would not have unduly inconvenienced that person, and it would have meant the world to me. I had never asked him for anything before.

He didn’t even ask me the circumstances that lead to my request. He didn’t ask if anyone else could do this favor for me. He simply said, “No, I’d rather not. Sorry.”

Of course, he was perfectly within his rights to deny my request, but he was my only option. This left me, effectively, screwed. And, frankly, shocked.

I’m always shocked when people react differently than I would in the same situation. And about 8 hours later, I added indignation to my shock, because I remembered that several years ago he asked me to help him complete a job application, and also asked for a letter of recommendation, and I didn’t hesitate to help. I think it took me that long to remember that because I’m not one to keep score.

Now I find myself having less respect for this man. That makes me sad. But I’m starting to realize that my level of respect for a person is closely tied to what I call their generosity of spirit. That generosity doesn’t even have to involve me in any way. It’s just my observations about how that person treats others.

For example, I find it hard to respect people who are cruel to their family members, abusive to animals, or rude to cashiers or wait staff or anyone else in the service industry. On the other hand, I have mad respect for those who volunteer, or see a need in the community and try to fix it. Extra credit to those who shovel their neighbor’s driveway or give coats to the homeless. And kudos to those who wear a mask to protect the more vulnerable members of society during this pandemic. I can’t understand how anyone even hesitates to do so.

And even if you don’t have the time or money, there are so many ways to have a generous spirit without unduly sacrificing yourself. I heard a story the other day about a woman who was grocery shopping, and the cashier said, “How are you doing?” Normally she would have responded that she was fine, but a few days ago her mother had died, and she said so. The bag boy asked if he could give her a hug, and he did so when she said yes.

Little things like that can mean the entire world to someone. (And incidentally, if you want to hear more lovely stories like that one, check out the My Unsung Hero podcast. It will warm your heart.)

Kindness doesn’t have to be hard for you. If someone says hello to you, say hello back. Simple. Hold the door for someone. Let someone go first. Hold the elevator. Show up early.

One time I was walking down the sidewalk and a little old lady approached me and shyly asked if I could zip up her dress. She lived alone, and she couldn’t reach the zipper herself. She didn’t want to walk into church in an unzipped dress. So I zipped it right up for her. I suspect that’s the most human contact she had had in ages. Things like that are so easy to do. I wish more people would do them.

I just looked up the etymology of the word favor. It’s been around since the 1300’s at least. It means good will, support, honor, reverence, to show a kindness to.

So when someone says “Do me a favor,” they’re actually asking you to honor and support them with your kindness. I find that delightful. We need more of that in this world.

Think of that next time someone asks you for a favor. If you are able, I hope you’ll be willing. Because everyone could use a little kindness.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!


Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

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