“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’ ”
— Mary Anne Radmacher
Generosity Day, a Valentine’s Day reboot, is everywhere! It is here … and here … and here … and here …
but not here. Well, not like I wanted. I had hoped to do more, but I wasn’t brave enough.
Let me explain.
I was given $50 cash at Christmas. That General Grant had been sitting in my wallet for a month and a half, waiting for an opportunity to be used. Nothing seemed appropriate. After all, it was a gift and I’d like to use it for something special.
It occurred to me this morning that maybe I could somehow use that for Generosity Day. So, on my way back from dropping the kids off at school, I pulled into my local Starbucks with the intent on paying for someone’s coffee. Right as I walked up, about nine people walked in ahead of me. Cowardly, I slunk back to my car making excuses to myself about not having time to wait.
After helping my wife with a pink pancake breakfast for the kids, I stopped by the bank on my way to work. Sitting in the bank’s drive-up teller lane, I realized that I could give a Starbucks card to the teller. But, I didn’t have any with me. Instead, I wrote a quick note thanking her for her courtesy and sent it back in the tube.
Now, determined to get some Starbucks cards, I stopped at another outlet of the ubiquitous bean retailer. I bought ten, five dollar cards. I would hand them out to people I saw, even strangers. Excellent idea. Now, how can I implement it?
I thought about it all day. I pondered it while missing opportunities to give them to friends. I thought about it while I was searching for a Valentine’s Day present for my wife. I even thought about it after I pulled the car over and pledged a few dollars to public radio in the spirit of Generosity Day.
But at nine o’clock this evening, while sitting on the couch, I still had ten cards. I knew it wasn’t really a failure, because my intentions were good, and there’s always tomorrow. But it wasn’t really a success either. No excuses, just a lack of … well, courage.
Then, an idea struck me. I wonder if my neighbors would like to wake up to a coffee courtesy of our family. I counted the cards again. Just enough to give everyone in the neighborhood a coffee.
Finally motivated, courageous, and with my wife’s help cutting hearts, I made up a simple heart envelope, wrote a note on it, stuffed the cards in, taped it up and hung the hearts on all my neighbors’ doors. Assuming a heart burglar isn’t prowling tonight, the paper handles hold, it doesn’t rain sideways, and a giant gust of wind doesn’t come along, my neighbors will get a small something from our family in the morning.
It wasn’t courageous and I didn’t make any new connections with people, but it was something.
Tomorrow, I’ll try to give with intention again. I’ll try to make another connection. I’ll try to give my time as best I can.
In the meantime, maybe a little free coffee will brighten up the neighborhood.
Kudos to Sasha Dichter and the entire Generosity Day team for having the “heart” to make Valentine’s Day better! I tried to be generous.
Great story, thanks for sharing, Eric. Hope your neighbors realize how lucky they are!
Thanks Rob. I feel though that I’m the lucky one for having great neighbors and a wonderful community of people around me. 🙂
Ah, the “not enough” frame of mind. I’ve been there many, many times, and I think what it comes down to for me is, whatever is meant to be will be and whoever is meant to receive what you have to offer will receive it. It sounds like a cop out but in my experience pushing yourself to do these things never ever works out. I’m sure you’ll find the courage to buy a stranger’s coffee soon enough (it’s scary, I know, I’ve done it about ten times now and the fear never goes away!) and when you do it will be the right person. Just go with the flow. You’re doing amazing things – and every one of them is more than enough!
Very true, Cat!
No worries. I’m not beating myself up. Just always striving to give a little better, even if it’s not quite as much as I’d hoped for.
Thanks for thoughts, (and kudos to you for picking up the tab on a few coffees!)
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omigod I am Absolutely. This. Way. Too.
I spent all generosity in a state of mild anxiety, trying to get up the courage to do something generous. Finally, on the metro ride home, having psyched myself up for 20 minutes, I offered a woman help with her bags. She kindly declined, called me a sweetheart, and I fled as fast as I could.
Possibly this is just an introvert/mild social anxiety thing, but man does it take a lot of courage to be generous in this way. It is ever so much easier for me to just make an online donation to GiveWell, so I just did that instead.
Thanks for sharing, Brigid.
Well, if nothing else, you shared your story and that took a little courage.
Tell you what – Maybe together, we can try to be more generous, just a little bit more every day. Then someday, when we’re brave enough, you can come help me with my bags. 🙂
Take care, and thanks for the comment.
This is such an inspiring story. I’d ditto Rob’s comment and say that your neighbor’s are truly lucky,
First time to your blog and found my way here through Sasha’s mail. At my end, I did a couple things on Generosity Day.
1. Officially launched my squidoo lens called One Challenge A Day (http://www.squidoo.com/one-challenge-a-day)..sort of a positive social experiment.
2. Surprised a new neighbor with a homemade diaper cake gift for her newborn. I could see she was super-thrilled and I became all too shy when she started thanking. Guess I am still learning to take a thank you with a simple smile.
Inspired by what I read today here and I will not be a stranger anymore I suppose.
Your contributions and project sounds wonderful, Aruna! I will be excited to hear how they go.
Learning to accept gratitude with grace isn’t always easy, but that is part of what helps us to give more.
Thanks for the comment,
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