The other night after dinner my oldest tells me: “I am glad Michael and Kelvin got to stay for dinner, it is late, their mom is at work, so they probably wouldn’t have had dinner.” They were beautiful words coming out of my 11-year-old mouth. I agreed with him but tried not to make a big deal out of it. True generosity is humble and quiet and I wanted him to learn that too.
Generosity is not something you can teach by talks, it is something you have to live and show. I don’t have much, enough, but by no means much. I didn’t grow up with much either, but through the lessons, I learned from my mom and relatives, I learned that to be generous you don’t need to have a lot. The only thing you need to have to be generous is the disposition and willingness to help others whenever you can.
I remember back in college running into my old roommate just outside the bank. He was crying, as he walked away from the ATM machine. I was on my way to work my crappy fast food job and literary had 50 dollars to my name. It was my first summer staying at college instead of going home back to Puerto Rico. I had already lived in three different apartments and any money I was making was going to pay for rent. Brian and I weren’t friends, but having lived with the guy when I first got to college we had created a bond. I approached him and asked him what was going on. He explained that he had just tried to take money out of his bank account but there was none. The kid was upset, crying and frustrated. Without hesitation, I pulled out what little money I had in my wallet, which was the only money I had, and gave it to him. He tried to refuse accepting it, but I told him I could get food at work and my rent was paid, so he should have it. I still remember how his energy changed and the relief that filled his eyes, even though I only gave him a small amount of money.
I must admit I felt proud or myself, my upbringing led me to make that decision without hesitation, but the true joy was in helping a fellow human in need. We have all needed help at one point or another in life, not only financially, but emotionally, mentally or just something as trivial as moving a couch. Many people have helped me in my life so I make sure I pay it forward exponentially. I show and live by the mantra, that if you need the shirt off my back, I will give it to you. I make sure my boys see, live and learn that mantra.
I can already see the selflessness and generosity in my boys through their action and the things they say. They are generous with their possessions, with their attention and their love. Being generous is not only about giving material things. Sometimes a loving hug is the most generous thing you can give another person, being there for them when they need emotional support. My sons see that in my action and are already emulating it and that makes me incredibly proud.
I have heard the saying “How do you change the world? One act of kindness at a time.” Being generous goes hand in hand with kindness, but I alone cannot change the world. Maybe the three of us, and their children, and their children’s children, through our collective action of generosity, whether is feeding a hungry friend, or standing next to someone through a tough time, maybe with all of our combined actions we can just make this sometimes ugly world, a little better place.
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