What motivates our moments of generosity?

“Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity” – Albert Camus

Rarely do you see moments of true generosity these days. This isn’t so much a criticism as it is a cynical approach, but it is something I believe is true. Generosity is associated with doing something. That is what it has always been and that is what it will continue to be. However, everyday it becomes more apparent that people’s acts of generosity are usually motivated by something else. I am guilty of this too. My ‘moments of generosity’ have usually come about because I know I will feel a sense of self-gratification in the aftermath; being generous = feeling good.

But that isn’t true generosity. Being generous is giving more than expected because you believe it is the right thing to do, yet it is done without an expectancy of being given – or feeling – something in return. On Wednesday of this week at work, I believe I witnessed a true moment of generosity. A moment so delightful it left me and my colleagues taken back but smiling, even though our involvement was purely service.

A customer came in looking to buy a suit. Not for himself, or for a son, but for his daughter’s boyfriend. The occasion? His Year 11 Leaver’s Day and Prom. Now, the customer didn’t have lots of money to spare but he walked in and explained his aim was to purchase his daughter’s boyfriend a suit, shirt, tie, belt and shoes. His reason? They boy’s family had very little money and he didn’t want him to feel out of place. Even when they boy tried to put some money towards the items, the customer declined, asking him to spend it on his daughter instead.

Now, as you can imagine, this purchase was not cheap. A suit never is. But this customer’s sheer determination to get his daughter’s boyfriend a nice suit so he could have the ideal send-off was moving. More so the fact that we are talking about this customer spending this money when both his daughter and the boy were 15/16. It was a moment that makes you take a step back. A moment that makes you think ‘why am I not more like that?’ The crazy thing is, we all can be and, with practice, hopefully I will be.

Who knows, maybe I will learn to see that a generous world without the expectation of something in return is a far happier world than that with.

“True generosity is an offering; given freely and out of pure love.
No strings attached. No expectations”
– Suze Orman

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