Who Taught You To Be Generous?

Love the conversation I overheard in the gym locker room this morning. Okay, I admit it freely; I am an eavesdropper of the highest magnitude. On a scale of 1-10 guilty of listening in to what total strangers are saying, I’m a 12. But it’s a wonderful vice to have. I find people so fascinating and sometimes uplifting too.

Two women, both in their 40s or so. Truthfully I can never tell, they may have been anywhere from 40 – 65. But they did both look terrifically fit, whatever their age. (I’m not that big a snoop, I didn’t secretly photograph them so you’ll have to take my word.) Here’s how the conversation went:

Woman A: I’ve always had the habit of making extra food when I make something like Tiramisu or lasagne,  you know the things it’s just as easy to make double of as it is to make one. I give the other one to someone else. But my husband always asked, “Why are you giving our food away?” He was annoyed about it and didn’t understand why I didn’t just freeze it and keep it for us. So I told him it was no big deal to make extra and other people need it more than we do. We’re not rich but we can certainly afford to give away a lasagne every so often.

Woman Z: That is really nice of you. How do you decide who to give the food to?

Woman A: Well, I just kind of pick anyone I’ve talked to recently who I think could use the help. Like you know that guy in the gym who just lost his wife? He’s alone and I don’t think he cooks so I gave him a meal last week. And, that’s when it got interesting. When I got home and told my husband who I gave the food to, he said, “Oh, now I get it. I understand why you’re giving away food. That guy probably won’t have a home cooked meal now that his wife is gone. He probably doesn’t cook. That’s really nice of you.” So, when it was someone my husband could clearly relate to, because he knows he’d be lost without my cooking, he finally understood the whole idea of helping people who need a hand. I was really happy he got it and won’t be pissed at me for giving away our food.

Woman Z: So, that’s cool, you taught your husband how to be generous. Who taught you that?

Woman A: (Period of total silence)

Woman Z: I mean you weren’t born that way, someone had to teach you about generosity. Who was it?

Woman A: Wow, I never thought about that. I’ve always just seen myself as a good and generous person. Let me think about it.

Woman Z: Your mom?

Woman A: No, I don’t think so. Wait, you know what? It was probably my dad. He is and has always been dirt poor. He lives in Puerto Rico and has never made any money but he’s always seen a beautiful world around himself. He never thought of himself as poor. When I was a teenager I’d take odd jobs to make some money and I’d give some of it to him. He’d give it away and I’d get really angry. I’d say, “I worked to make that money for you, not for that guy. Why’d you give my money away?” And he’d say, “I’m okay. I have everything I need but that guy needs help.” And, believe me, my father had nothing, but somehow he always thought others were worse off and wanted to help them because for whatever reason, he saw a beautiful life surrounding him and felt sorry for other people.I guess it was my dad.

And she smiled. And the woman who asked the great question smiled. And I smiled but I had to turn away so they wouldn’t know I was eavesdropping. But I was glad I did. Maybe I should have saved this post for Father’s Day and maybe some folks will reblog it then but I just couldn’t wait. What a tribute to what makes a great dad!

So I ask you that wonderful question. Are you generous? What does that mean to you and who taught you to be that way? If you could teach that to someone whom would you choose?


15 thoughts on “Who Taught You To Be Generous?

  1. Sharing this conversation about a generous person makes you one of the tribe too.

    I come from a long line of generous Mennonite women who sewed, cooked, baked for the poor. Their habits have become my modus operandi too. Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Lovely. It’s wonderful what was passed down to you in your community. We learn from so many people beyond our families, I believe. I like to think of myself as generous and sometimes I am, maybe not as generous as I would like to be. Definitely learned it from both of my parents and also from some friends, but my sister was raised in the same house and didn’t learn the same lesson so I’m not sure how it all works. But I never thought about the fact that we all have to learn it somewhere. Really fascinating to me to think about that.


  2. um…..i don’t think i learned it from my family. and honestly i don’t act generous all the time, it all depends on situation and feelings at that certain moment. But i remembered once i heard a saying that we can’t give if we don’t have, e.g. love, care or whatever. so people who is mean and selfish is because they are lack of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know what? I’m sure all people are like you. No one is generous all the time. But you are honest about it! Also right, you can’t give what you don’t have. Guess that’s an argument in favor of being even more generous with people who seem to lack it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great question for this May long weekend! I have a home where it started with myself, then my mother moved in and last my youngest son is back for a bit. This weekend I have both of them, my oldest boy and their stepbrother as well. I admit some times it seems odd for the stepbrother who is from their fathers girlfriend (not my boyfriends …) to be at our house ( I believe not great for her to hear) but he is part of their world and that makes him part of my world!
    My mother would be the teacher of all I know. My father past when I was one, she was the father, the mother, the friend, the disciplinarian and more. Yet in all, as poor as we were, she always made time and money for me. Always helped other families even though the help was never returned and worked hard. She has took a back burner to help myself, my boys and anyone who came in to our life…always….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a lovely tribute to your mom who sounds like the very definition of beauty. And it also sounds like you are following directly in her footsteps. Lucky family to have you both in the tree!


  4. I was so drawn to this post, Debby. It has been my experience that people who have the least are often the most generous. I grew up in a poor community; poor only in things, never in values.Families knew struggle and hunger at times, but we always took care of each other. Sharing meals, feeding each others children, sending casseroles to their home, sharing clothing hand-me-downs, babysitting for free, etc.

    As we moved onto more middle/upper class communities, folks were far more private and far less generous. I found myself homesick, and even a bit worried that my own children would grow up missing a bit of this. When we moved to a new state the last time, we were being steered by friends and coworkers to another of those privileged communities (good investment, great schools, college-bound population). We opted to go elsewhere, and I think it made a difference. Time will tell.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post. I need to read more. ☺ Van

    Liked by 2 people

  5. When I was a young woman I had a best friend who was unbelievably generous. Whatever she had she shared, though she had little. When she began working and achieved significant success, she was able to really let her generous spirit soar. What she had she shared and in a huge way, giving away much of what she earned. I learned a great deal from her about the way to live and the moral way to do business. And that’s when I realized, generosity is not about how much you have, it’s about who you are. Sounds like you are of the same mind. I’m sure your kids will be better off for your choices. You are teaching them who you are matters a great deal more than what you have. Thanks for reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful story Deb. I like your detective skills, lol. I suppose we inherit traits from our backgrounds but we also have the ability become better people than what our backgrounds may not have afforded us. 🙂


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