2/8/16, Generosity & Forgiveness
I hope all is well with you. I’ve been busy, writing, changing cities, seeing my kids, keeping up with life. Probably you’re busy too!!!
I don’t usually respond to comments on the blog, but now and then one snags me, and I can’t help but chime in. And one of those caught my eye recently, when someone wrote in “Forgiveness and generosity are not accessible to everyone”. And another person commenting on the blog strongly disagreed—–and I so agree with him. The beauty of both forgiveness and generosity is that they ARE accessible, and possible, and even vital for everyone!!! Personally, I don’t think you can have a decent relationship with anyone, a parent, a spouse, a lover, a co-worker, a boss, a friend, a child without being willing to forgive. And I know, sometimes it is VERY hard. There are a few people who hurt me so badly in my lifetime that it will be, and has been, a life’s work to forgive them. But the person carrying the heaviest burden is the one unwilling to forgive. No marriage works without forgiveness, no friendship, no relationship. I think it’s one of the most important gifts between two people, and that one can give: forgiveness. We don’t even have to invite those people back into our lives, hang around with them, have them over for dinner, but we do have to be able to forgive in order to go on with our lives in a healthy way, in freedom from the burdens of the past. It is in our power to forgive and well worth the hard work it takes sometimes to let go of anger and resentment and forgive. The forgiveness we extend to others blesses us every time.
And generosity is within our abilities as well. Generosity is accessible to everyone!! Not money, not a check, although sometimes that is certainly welcome, but the gift of time, of oneself, helping a friend with a move, a problem, a project, sometimes just listening, calling someone you know is having a hard time, or lonely, or sick, or giving them something you love but know would mean a lot to them. There are so many ways to be generous, which can mean so much to others. I have never forgotten the people who reached out to me when I was having a hard time. A gift like that can light up your day, or your life, or change your whole outlook.
Right off the top of my head, three examples come to mind. My oldest daughter had a Moped accident when she was fourteen. At first it just seemed like a very nasty scrape with some cuts and bruises on her leg, but it rapidly became a much bigger deal with an infection that went into her bone and up her leg, and she nearly lost her leg, and endured seven years of surgeries, intense pain, nerve damage, physical therapy, wheel chairs and crutches until she was well again. A year after the accident, one of her doctors suggested that she do some volunteer work with people more unfortunate than she was. At 15, she volunteered to work with children with cancer, undergoing chemotherapy. She stuck with it for many years, loved the kids she met, and found that she had a real gift for working with them. In the summers, she volunteered to work at a camp for kids with cancer, and did that for many years. She directed her studies toward that kind of work, got several graduate degrees and eventually became a social worker and therapist in pediatric oncology, and has had an impressive career in that field. Her incredible generosity with her time, at a time when she was in so much pain herself led to a lifelong passion and a remarkable career. And years later, when I was devastated over the loss of my son and the disintegration of my marriage, her shining example led me to do the homeless outreach work on the streets that changed my life and brought help to many, and immeasurable joy to me.
When thinking about unexpected generosity at a dark time, I remembered a time when I went to an antique shop to look around. I couldn’t afford anything in the shop at the time, I knew the antique dealer slightly, and I was having a hard time just then, and my spirits were somewhere in my socks. He must have sensed it or seen it, and I looked at a beautiful little miniature antique painted desk. It was just a lovely piece, and I would have loved to have it, but I couldn’t even consider it. It was quite an expensive piece. I went home, and the next day, a gift arrived: it was the beautiful little desk, given to me as a gift by the owner of the shop. It was an incredible gift, I was totally stunned, and no one has EVER given me such an amazing gift, before or since. It was pure generosity and kindness. I was overwhelmed by it, and so grateful for the enormously generous gesture. The desk is still in my living room, and I think of how it came to me every time I look at it. It was really a gift of love that warms my heart still.
The other example that came to me was my friend and mentor, Alex Haley. He wrote the book “Roots”, and was an icon and a legend. He was one of the kindest, most generous men I have ever known, always giving to others, always taking time to listen to them. He couldn’t do enough for people, and he had an incredible, compassionate way about him. People stopped him everywhere he went, he was an inspiration to many, and people wanted to talk to him. Going anywhere with him was a challenge, because every five minutes someone wanted to touch him, or meet him, or tell him their life stories. And it always struck me about him how generous he was, giving of himself. No matter how rushed, or busy, or tired he was, he would stop and talk to them, and seemed as though he had waited a lifetime to meet them, and had nothing else to do. They walked away afterwards, feeling ten feet tall after he gave them his full attention, and made each one feel like they were the most important person world. He was so humble, which was a true sign of greatness, and so generous with his time, and heart and soul.
I’m as crabby as the next person, and there are days when I fall short of what I hope to be, when I don’t take enough time with others, or am grumpy when things go wrong. And then I remember these generous acts and generous people….whether it’s with a cup of coffee, or five minutes, or a smile, or the gift of a book we love, or a touch of the hand at the right time, we can all be generous. It’s a gift that any of us can give, and generosity is indeed accessible to us all.
This coming Sunday is Valentine’s Day, and I hope it turns out just the way you want, with the person you want to be with, and the way you want it to unfold. I hope wonderful surprises are in store for you. I hope all your dreams come true. And just know that all of you are my Valentines every day!!
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Hi Danielle. This message on forgiveness and generosity is one of my favorite ones of yours!….I love the story of the miniature desk, your daughter’s generosity of time during her own health struggles and about Alex Haley, whom I remember as a guest on talk shows during the time of Roots airing on television. Thank you for the beautiful Valentine wishes and I hope the very same for you! Hearts, Stuffed Teddy Bears, Flowers and Chocolates and friendship hugs to you!
Thank you for writing such an inspiring blog.
Happy Valentine’s Day!!!
I love you!!
As I was reading I kept thinking that only a great write would have so much to say about something that we don’t usually have.
Im the type of person that can forgive…but, I can take someone out of my life. I had a friend and we had this fight over something stupid and stopped talking. After some time I realized that I didnt miss her or even thought about her.
At first it made me sad, we were friends for 12 years, but then I realized that we weren’t friends anymore . we were just too people who had conversations every once in a while but she wasn’t a true friend. maybe thats why I don’t miss her.
I totally lost the subject…sorry.
Happy valentines day..(on sunday)
I thoroughly enjoyed this article and how very impressive about your daughter, with the accident, at such a young age, and being able to be there for others when she was suffering. You and your family sound truly wonderful.
Happy Valentines day.
Thank you for this blog. It was worth more than a red, heart shaped box of chocolate. My favorite.
I was moved by all the adversity you had in your life. But what moved me to the core is what you and your daughter did with it. You both used it to find your purpose and help others rather than become bitter and let it beat you.
Reading this made me want to become a better person.
You will always be connected to Nick through love and thank you for helping the homeless during their most desperate hour of need. Also, special thanks for all the good work your daughter is doing in pediatric oncology.
I loved the gift of the antique desk that was given to you at a time wen you couldn’t afford it because you deserved it. I believe in having a sacred and quiet place to do ones work surrounded by things or photos which have meaning to you. My favorite photo of you is on the back of the jacket of one of your books where you are at your desk. I could see all your framed covers to your books on the wall behind you and there was even a picture of Nick there too. But I can’t remember the book was which included this photo on the jacket.
Also, I wanted to say that although I don’t respond to every post I like hearing about how you have an appreciation for nice things including fashion. My grandmother (the practitioner) was similar and she wore lots of bracelets. Perhaps the goodness you write about reminds me of her.
Also, I appreciate your use of humor like when you posted the photo of your daughter dressed up like you for Halloween with all the bracelets and the glasses. I laughed so hard at a time when I needed it most.
Now Back to forgiveness.
I reread my post and your post numerous times regarding forgiveness. I was walking through a beautiful street with a church here in Oaxaca, Mexico as they are everywhere. I stopped in at night with all the candles lit up and prayed to God to give me the strength to forgive my mother.
But the question came to me on how do I do it. Then the Oprah clip came with the definition: “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different”.
I said God that sounds hopeless. But then the same feeling of a warm blanket came over me and I understood why I wasn’t able forgive. I needed to give up the hope that the past could be any different. I was holding on to the if only, it should been, why didn’t my mom treat me better or just pick up the phone and call me. But she wouldn’t do it. So I interpreted that as I was unworthy and perhaps was punishing myself with destructive behavior. One example was my suicide attempt.
Perhaps I know better now and need to act like it. Easier said then done.
Special recognition to your comments of Alex Haley the author of “Roots” as I’m all for adversity.
Truth, Wisdom, Love and Sincerity, to ALL Mankind.
p.s. My last quote should have said: “I am all for diversity”.
But one more thing I feel we need to touch on is generosity since it is important and included in your blog comments.
I must admit I recently learned that Mother Teresa had doubt and questioned where was God at times. Perhaps rightly so helping the poorest of the poor.
I have my own answer and it applies to you Danielle when you were helping the poor. If you want to know where God was look around at the love. The love was being reflected by you and your staff helping the poor at their most desperate hour of need and the same goes for Mother Teresa. Love was right there. Perhaps closer than their the helpers own breath.
I will include an excerpt from “The Christian Science Monitor” reflecting on Mother Teresa’s doubt below with a clip to the movie on the letters of mother Teresa. The link must have been turned off as it wasnit highlighted but click it into your browser as it is well worth watching the 2 minute trailer.
WHEN FAITH TRANSCENDS DOUBT
“MOTHER TERESA—BEREFT OF FAITH? The missionary who brought light to those in deepest darkness—herself in darkness? A new book reveals the inner spiritual turmoil of the nun so revered for her good deeds, and in its revealing holds an important message for humanity.
“That a religious leader supposedly beyond the clutches of doubt wrestled so personally and persistently with it, touches people—religious and nonreligious—because doubts of all sorts are so common to the human condition.
“Her refusal to give in also inspires—not only because of the immense good that came from her perseverance, but because it is only persistent striving and loving that can relieve the burdens of the human experience. Imagine what the world would be like if doubt—of faith, of ability, of purpose—were allowed the upper hand.
“From all walks of life, and at all levels, people struggle with doubt—religious and otherwise—on a daily basis: youngsters facing their first day of kindergarten; alcoholics struggling to recover; presidents with world-shaping decisions to make.
“Abraham Lincoln was filled with self-doubt, and yet overcame it to lead the [United States] through the Civil War. Martin Luther King Jr. often talked about his doubts—about his ability or willingness to commit to and sustain the civil-rights movement, and his fear of assassination.
“It’s tempting to think of great moral leaders as unshakable warriors, but that is so rarely true. And it’s tempting to think that their courage and good deeds are not possible for the general population to achieve.
“But the case of Mother Teresa should make her works feel more accessible to people. If “the saint of the gutters” was tormented by personal failings, then those who feel less saintly can also commit to acts of charity.
“Mother Teresa may have believed she had no faith, but was not her persistence an act of extreme faith? And is it not faith in something greater than themselves that sustained leaders, such as Mr. Lincoln and Mr. King, as they carried out their missions?
“Persistence for persistence’s sake is not a strong motivator. It is belief in a greater cause, in goodness itself, that carries people past doubt, past hesitancy, to the fulfillment of their missions—on a small or grand scale.
“The doubting Mother Teresa”
The Christian Science Monitor. August 30, 2007
where R U?