Thursday, June 30, 2011
Generosity is a really broad term with about a billion perspectives of what ‘being generous’ looks like. A hypothetical example: Mark offers me a bite of his Kobe beef burger. This is an incredibly generous act for him. But if I don’t realize the abnormally high value he places in this dead animal-turned food, then I won’t understand his act of generosity. In fact, I may feel like he is stingy by only giving me one bite. Marital issues emerge, cultural miscommunications explode, and suddenly an act of generosity morphs into an argument about who is more selfish, ungrateful, or you name it. Sweet. Sounds like fun.
So over the past two years, we have been exploring two primary questions—what is generosity? And how should generosity take shape in our lives? I’ll focus on the first question in this post. First, I think that we should broaden the ways in which we express generosity—through our time, skills, sharing resources, etc. Our goal is not to simply give money away so that we feel good about ourselves. But I believe that inviting people into our lives, giving to others, and being open to receiving generosity are all components of it. Everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status or situation, is called to be generous. That’s one of the things that connect us to each other—we all have something to give, and we all are in some kind of need.
Through all of our conversations, I’ve come to understand being generous as the state and act of holding loosely your possessions, time, control, and status, so that you may share with others. Being generous is more than writing a big check to a community center or buying dinner for your friends. The generous action must be accompanied by an openness to let people into your life and to relinquish your sense of control. And actually, when I frame it this way, I start to realize that naturally I’m not so generous after all! It’s something I have to intentionally work on and practice. If I start to feel like I’m tightening my grip on something, it’s a sign that I need to open my hands and share it with others.
This is an important habit because as humans in a community, we are designed to share with each other. I think living generously is moving closer toward who we were meant to be. We were meant to give ourselves to each other in response to the generosity we’ve experienced—from God, friends, or whomever. It’s tough to hold loosely the things I value. And yet, when I realize that I have been the recipient of generous love and grace, I am encouraged and empowered to share that with my community.
Monday, June 27, 2011
The other day, we had an unnerving realization. Now usually, the Other DeLew and I talk about a lot of important things, (like world events, wine, living in community, insert cool/socially conscientious buzz word here.) But this revelation came from a mundane conversation about our car. Recently we’ve noticed a clanking sound from beneath our car. Like something is loose. The last time I was at the auto shop, the mechanic removed a rusty bar from the bottom of our car and told me that it’s just an unnecessary scrap of metal that holds the muffler in place. But I’m sure that ‘lack of rusty bar’ isn’t causing the clanking… Right?
I asked Mark if he had any ideas about what might be clanking. Mark replied, “of course I have no idea what it might be.” We both laughed at how little we know about cars, home improvement (one of the main reasons we’re not itching to buy a home), gardening, or really anything that involves hard labor. At this point, Mark said, “You know, if the apocalypse happened, we’d be the first to get kicked out of the surviving community. We don’t have any hard skills!”
(At this point the conversation turned into a debate about zombies. I, personally, don’t like them and think they’re stupid. As a result, Mark was defending the zombies. Maturity reigns over here.
Back to the matter at hand: in high school I went on mission trips to Mexico where my team built houses for Mexican families. Mind you, I wasn’t the most adept at using a hammer or nail gun, and neither were most of my teammates. Few of had ever seen a, well, I don’t even know any tool names to use as an example. A henchsaw? Let’s go with that. We were really eager to serve, but I’m not sure if serving with a hammer was the best use of our skills. In fact, I’m pretty sure there were a couple of locals who knew a thing or two about construction who may be willing to work … I better explore this topic in another post.
All this to say, I started thinking about what value I could bring to a post-apocalyptic world in which we were fighting off zombies. I could manage a project, facilitate clear communication processes, write a pretty convincing letter to the Zombie King requesting that he be generous with us and let us live. All of this sounds pretty lame when you’re fighting for survival with swords and bayonets (this is my picture of post-apocalyptic living). But I actually think those things would be important! I think it would help the community survive and perhaps thrive!
Sometimes it’s hard to see how our specific gifts can be of use. But I’m convinced that we have all been given gifts for the good of the community. We all have our unique skills and passions, and it’s through identifying and nurturing them that we might be able to make our community stronger. And together, we may in fact survive the Apocalypse.