From the Prompt “Acts of Service” in theDailyOM.com
I have found that my generosity towards others doesn’t stem from the need for validation or return on my investment but rather from the need to make someone else’s life better. In my formative years, I never experienced generosity towards me; quite the opposite in fact. I was pushed away, never truly loved and I don’t recall anyone ever doing something for me out of the goodness of their heart. I’m sure there are those who disagree, but my perception is my reality and I truly don’t remember a lot of goodwill coming my way. I feel like if I had, I’d remember it.
As I grew into my adult years, my generous nature was a result of my losses as a child. I tried to buy love by giving, giving, giving, all the time. I gave my money, I gave my time, I gave my love, all freely and filled with hope. Hope that I was making someone happy and hope that I could fill the void of feeling unnecessary. So maybe a part of it was the need for validation but not in the way of “I give to you, you give to me”. I never needed kudos or acknowledgement for the kindness I shared, I just needed to be needed.
Later, I learned the gift of generosity from my friends who gave of themselves like no others I’d ever experienced. I marveled in this gift of receiving and it made me even more generous. It truly gives me no end of pleasure to make someone else happy and I’m so grateful that I’m able to do that with my time, talents and finances.
There is no question that I am an empath. I feel things so deeply and intensely and when I’m feeling happy and upbeat I want the same for the people that I love. If I can do that, it heightens my mood and my purpose.
My first and possibly biggest act of true generosity was when I volunteered to be a Big Sister with the National Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization. I was matched with an 8 year old black orphaned girl named Darlene, who was in the process of being adopted. She was the single most delightful and sweet child in spite of all she’d already suffered: no father, and a mother who died of AIDS. But she attached herself to me right away, and I to her. We became very close despite our 20 year age difference and now, almost 33 years later, we remain as close as ever. I would argue that I benefited more from this relationship than she did, but we disagree on that all the time. I know that I enhanced her life and broadened her horizons but she absolutely did the same for me. I wouldn’t be the Mom I am today to my children if not for the early experiences with her. I love her as much as I do my own children and am as proud of her as I could possibly be. It was never a chore, rather a privilege, to spend time with her when she was young and now that we are adult contemporaries, we are the closest of friends. I consider her my family, and have known her longer than I’ve known my own husband and children.
In further reflecting on this prompt of Generosity, I think my greatest gift is empathy. I’ve been through so much in my own life and there are not many shoes I haven’t walked in. I am able to understand and empathize with so many situations and people, and the irony is that I do not take on their pain, (I have enough of my own, thank you) but rather I learn from these experiences which only serves to further enhance my gift of giving. Maybe I sometimes come across as a know-it-all, and I know that I can be off putting and even unhelpful. But my heart is filled with love to give away, and the more I give, the more I generate, both internally and for others. It is with great sadness that I find myself unable to help someone or improve their situation but that certainly does happen and I’m still learning how to process that feeling of loss when I feel I’ve let someone down. I know, deep down in my heart, that my gifts are directed honestly and with no expectations and I will never stop giving. For me, it is a part of my self-care lifestyle. I hope everyone in my life is aware that I am always available to them. And I look forward to the many new shoes I will walk in throughout the remainder of my life.