I’ve had this card taped to the door of my office for years. I so enjoy Susan Mrosek’s artistic creative whimsy (check out her website at http://www.ponderingpool.com ), but it’s the sentiment behind this card that captured me from the first. What’s funny is that although this card is about gratitude, I’ve always seen it as being about this woman having a generous heart. It’s the words “the unparalleled gratitude housed beneath her monstrous hand” that had me going there. This woman’s heart must be darn huge to contain unparalleled gratitude. And a heart that big must be generous.
Thank you for stimulating my connection between gratitude and generosity, Susan!
Hands have huge symbolism.
Outstretched, they signify both offering and accepting.
As you can see, I have monstrous hands, too. I usually feel full of gratitude, but then the quality of my life makes that very easy. It’s harder to be grateful for the challenges in our lives, the things that test us, make us grow, deepen our connection to the core of who we are.
I have not been tested severely by this life. That’s okay with me–don’t get me wrong! But that fact makes me realize that there may well be a lot of readers who despise me because I’ve had it so easy. Totally privileged. Sometimes I wonder if I even have the right to an opinion. I know there are people who think I don’t. Or that if I voice it, then they have the right, maybe the duty, to dismiss it.
It’s ironic to think that my test is that I have not been tested. How do I handle that? Can I feel gratitude for being dismissed as not having a right to enter the conversation? Just asking the question, I find my perceptions shift a little. I see a little more broadly into the arena, the concept of how it could be really good for others if I were ignored. Maybe not forever, but for now.
So you see how the concept of gratitude is linked in my mind to generosity–stepping into that new perspective has allowed me to open up to being more generous to the perspective of others who dismiss my voice.
Generosity has been on my mind since my husband and I went to Mexico a couple months ago. We went shopping for a birthday present for one of my sisters, and Andy didn’t even consider negotiating a lower price. To be honest, this took me aback. We lived together in Morocco almost 30 years ago for a couple of years. At that time (maybe now, too) it was considered insane to accept the first price offered for something. Getting the price lowered was a kind of game, but it was also a duty. I remember thinking that it was shameful somehow if I “let myself be taken advantage of” by a shopkeeper. I would be a patsy, a stupid tourist. Pathetic, in other words. Not worthy of the rug or bowl or whatever it was I was interested in purchasing. Talking down a price became a matter of pride.
So, here we were–different time, different country, but the same kind of shop, with the shopkeeper clearly waiting to hear a counter offer, and Andy was not playing by the rules. Why not?
Basically, he didn’t care about the game, about this silly moral issue of whether or not we were being ripped off. We could afford it. The price sounded good to him, so let’s pay it and be done. Oh. It wasn’t about the other person’s possible motivations in showing a need or asking for something. Worrying about getting ripped off is really just my ego getting in the way. I am only in charge of myself here. My heart, my mind, my motivation, my ability.
Such a small thing–a shopping expedition! But I felt a paradigm shift in the way I’ve been thinking about money and even gestures of kindness. Now I consciously notice how others are generous. I pray for more generosity in my own life. Not just practical generosity, but generosity of spirit and heart. I think by noting it, I have more chance of asking myself, in the moment, “how can I be generous here?”
The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu can be my big-time heroes in this. In The Book of Joy, they say that Generosity is the 8th pillar of Joy (the others are perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, and compassion).
Douglas Abrams sums up their perspective:
When we practice a generosity of spirit, we are in many ways practicing all the other pillars of joy. In generosity, there is a wider perspective, in which we see our connection to all others. There is a humility that recognizes our place in the world and acknowledges that at another time we could be the one in need, whether that need is material, emotional, or spiritual. There is a sense of humor and an ability to laugh at ourselves so that we do not take ourselves too seriously. There is an acceptance of life, in which we do not force life to be other than what it is, There is a forgiveness of others and a release of what might otherwise have been. There is a gratitude for all that we have been given. Finally, we see others with a deep compassion and a desire that is “wise selfish,” a generosity that recognizes helping others as helping ourselves. As the Dalai Lama put it, “In fact, taking care of others, helping others, ultimately is the way to discover your own joy and to have a happy life.” (p.275)
I started adding “practice generosity” to my daily goals. I’m thinking I can change that to “Large heart, large hands.”