At a meditation group I’m a part of, we were practicing Insight Dialogue – a type of meditation where you converse with another person around a given topic. The topic for that group was generosity. We were supposed to think of an act of generosity of which we were either the recipient, giver or simply witnessed. The first thing that came to my mind was my partner with his elderly father. His father is an incredibly intelligent and creative man. In his younger years, he was in the Navy, was an expert hairdresser in the era of beehives and bouffants, became a successful physician, built and ran restaurants and built a boat and sailed it around the world. He is not one to be tied down. But, sadly, he had aggressive radiation and chemotherapy to treat cancer and so his balance, hearing and judgment are not what they used to be. This does not stop his drive to fix and create, nor the use of power tools. Uh-oh. You can imagine where this is going... Will he cut off a finger today? Will he fall off the balcony?
My partner talks to him kindly. He is patient and respectful. He helps him measure, saw and nail. He reminds him of his computer and log-in passwords several times a week. During Hurricane Michael, he arranged flights and went with his father into the hurricane path to be sure their house was okay (it was); and then drove with his dad back up north after the threat had passed. This is true generosity.
I learn how to be compassionate and patient and let all the little things slide by simply watching the way my partner treats his parents, and everyone, and me. He doesn’t shame me when I have less patience than he does. He simply empathizes with my feelings, accepting them fully, without having to act according to what they dictate.
This pure acceptance of someone else, with all their foibles, irrationality, annoying habits and vulnerability is the best gift someone can ever give another person.
I’ll never forget a long time ago when I was a new city driver. I was with a close friend, and we were on some highway full of traffic, cars zooming around me, on the left, on the right. Someone cut in front of me and I sweared at them through the glass. My friend said, “They don’t mean it. They’re doing the best they can.” Huh? No, they’re a jerk! They do mean it, and they need to stop their crappy driving and entitled attitude! At the time, I held on to my judgment and my anger. But darn – these drivers are everywhere. I even run into these people in the grocery store, blocking my passage through the soup aisle while they dumbly stare at the prices on the canned peas. And, come to think of it, I run into them in classes I take. Sometimes my friends are annoying, and my family – don’t even get me started. Eventually I realized I was just like everyone else, and it really was only then that I fully appreciated my friend who could so easily and simply forgive small selfishness, and therefore overlook these in me too. Her acceptance has motivated me, more than any shaming or criticizing ever would, to be a better person.
I feel so grateful to witness these seemingly mundane but powerful, enveloping acts of generosity around me. In this season of giving and goodwill, I’m setting the intention to give this generosity as often and as freely as I can. Go ahead, cut me off in traffic. I know you’re doing the best you can too!