“Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness.”
― Dalai Lama
I hadn’t yet started my job in a new city, but we were inadvertently reaping the kindness of a man in our church.
My mentor was giving my wife and I his GPS unit (this was before cell phones had this handy feature…). “Someone” in the church had given it to him when he first moved to the area to help him get around town. Now my mentor was passing it on to us with the same intention.
This “someone” I later found out was a gentleman named Steve (that’s actually a fake name, but we’ll call him that for the sake of the story and anonymity).
I had been on staff a little over a year when I got to experience Steve’s generosity first-hand.
He sat down in my office and asked if I had an iPod. As a young twenty-something, I was used to people in their forties and older ask me for help with technology.
So I told him about the iPod Shuffle I bought my wife for jogging, my experience with Macs, and laid out my “credentials” so he’d feel comfortable asking for help. I assumed this was the direction the conversation was going to go.
Then he said, “Ok, but do you have an iPod?”
“No,” I replied. “I’m relegated to my computer or car for music.”
Obviously, he didn’t care about my technology prowess, and I was growing a little embarrassed for assuming that was what he was in my office for.
“Well here. Have this one.” Steve was pretty nonchalant as he handed me a brand new, sealed-in-the-box, 2nd generation 8GB iPod Touch.
What Steve was giving me was not cheap. This was an item worth a couple of hundred dollars, and I could now see there was more than one he was carrying with him. He must have been making a round through the church office that day.
At this point in my tenure on staff, I had heard the lore of Steve. The guy who goes to church here and gives random nice things to staff.
Why I was singled out that day, I don’t know. And after talking to a few other staff members there never seemed to be any rhyme or reason to whom Steve chose to bless.
It was just whoever God put on his heart.
I didn’t really know what to say other than the obvious, “Thank you!” I was dumbfounded.
As a child I received several great and expensive gifts from my parents — always on a birthday or Christmas. But never had I been given something this nice for no reason and without an occasion.
Add to the fact that Steve was virtually a stranger to me. I knew his name and had met him a time or two. But that was it.
“Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
A couple of years after that encounter with Steve, my wife and I went to the mall and happened to run into him. I still considered Steve an acquaintance. Someone I knew, but certainly not well. We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, and went on our way.
About 30 minutes later Steve found us in Bath & Body Works stocking up on 5 for $20 hand soap deals. It was obvious he had been searching for us since our handshake a half hour ago.
With a big smile he said, “Glad I found you guys! Felt like you should have this.” He reached out his hand holding a Visa gift card.
Much like the iPod Touch years prior I was confused at the random generosity.
I (of course) gave a big, “Wow! Thank you!” Luckily my wife was with me this time adding her thanks and appreciation. With two of us showing gratitude I hoped he realized we understood the weight of his kind gesture.
Not wanting to appear greedy in wondering how much was on it, I slipped the card in my pocket without looking at it. We said goodbye, and my wife and I returned to shopping in a casual fashion.
Once home I saw how much was on the card.
It was $300…
Generosity in the face of need is “normal” to me. People give their time to go on mission trips or serve the Peace Corp. Time is donated for a specific need.
There’s a hungry child or a sad looking pet in a commercial, you can donate/sponsor them. A natural disaster ravages an area of the world and people text money to organizations to help those living in the devastation.
These are needs being presented and kind members of society responding with generosity.
This same principle is often applied one-on-one as opposed to being through an organization. A single mom’s car breaks down. Someone in the church is a mechanic and fixes it for free. Or an elderly couple struggles to keep up with yard work and a band of teenagers arrive with hedge clippers and rakes.
There is a need and someone generously responds to the need.
With both of these gifts (the iPod and gift card), Steve was showing me that you can be generous just because. No need is needed.
There doesn’t need to be a reason for giving beyond the mindset of I have a surplus and I’m sharing.
“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
What was most crazy about getting the gift card was that we actually had a need. We were desperate for new tires on our car. They had been driven well beyond the prescribed mileage and it was time to make the investment in keeping our vehicle safe.
However, we didn’t have money in our budget to go buy new tires. When I looked into a good option we were staring at a bill of $285.
Again, Steve was an acquaintance and had no clue we were in need. Definitely no clue of the exact amount we needed.
This random gift from Steve now felt like a random gift from God.
It was one of those odd coincidences of need and provision magically lining up and unable to be explained away.
You don’t always have to give in order to meet a need. Sometimes you can give just to be nice.
It’s also fun to give and see people’s reaction. Steve was definitely a cheerful giver.
In the times you give just because, you don’t know what’s happening in that person’s life. You don’t know if you met a need or not. You’re just being kind for no reason.
Steve’s heart and attitude in giving is what we should all strive for in our generosity.
Give freely, give joyfully, give without a reason.
Just maybe there will be a reason you never know about, but you got to be God’s instrument that day simply because you lived a life of generosity.
This story is in response to the Give and Take in Real Life writing prompt.
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