I don’t remember her name though it might have been Elizabeth. She had dark hair, was short and stocky, and, as I found out, generous. She paid my grocery bill one night at the local Publix grocery store because my credit card wasn’t approved and I was cashless. I couldn’t thank her enough in the midst of my embarrassment. The approaching giving season leads me to think about this incident and the instantaneous generosity I’ve witnessed. Generosity is typically thought of as giving money, yet generosity is much broader than simply giving money. The four examples of instantaneous generosity I share below are followed by one not so instantaneous act of giving. I will then close out my remarks with some insights about instantaneous generosity that continually motivate me and might motivate you during this giving season and throughout the coming year.
The first three examples of instantaneous generosity involve my associates at Publix. Paul is a retired college educational psychologist. He has worked in the store’s customer service department for several years. When I’m cashiering he periodically pulls out a coin pouch and gives the amount of change a customer needs to complete their purchase. The customer is usually quite surprised by his instantaneous generosity and also very appreciative. The coins are found in the parking lot, saved in the pouch, and dispensed when needed at the checkout
A seventeen-year old high school senior associate was bagging for my customers one evening. A couple of men who are members of the local non-profit Haven House(www.havenhouse.net), operated a fundraising table outside the store’s entrance during the day. They came through my checkout lane at the end of their fundraising efforts. One of them purchased several items, but he didn’t have enough money for his bill. My youthful associate instantaneously offered to cover the balance. She retrieved her wallet in the associates’ break room and gave me the $5 to apply to the man’s bill. She also told the man to keep the change.
Michael is a retired teacher, coach and an associate. One of the periodic perks for Publix associates is a coupon for a free deli item. The coupon is for the associate only. A friend of Michael’s came through my checkout lane and complained about a problem in ordering a sub at the deli. He instantaneously donated his associate coupon for a whole sub to the friend with the stipulation that she come back through my checkout lane where he was bagging. She wasn’t in financial needy, but he was a true friend with his instantaneous generosity.
My three associates impressed me with their generosity. I believe they played a part in my own recent act of instantaneous generosity. I returned to Arlington, Texas in October for the first time after having moved from there in March 2018. I visited the First Rate Toastmasters Club meeting because I started out in Toastmasters with this club. The president of the club, Ishmael Omondi, is the founder of Big Dream Vision (www.bigdreamvision.com) and he gave a speech about the crisis of young African girls experiencing shame and ridicule when they don’t have feminine hygiene products. Many of them commit suicide after their humiliating experiences. As I listened to his dramatic presentation, I thought that I could donate to the fundraiser. I looked in my wallet, verified I had cash, and I pulled out an amount to give to him after the meeting. When I gave him the money he was surprised and extremely grateful.
My purpose for returning to Arlington was to help remove the remaining things in my parents’ estate from the First Rate, Inc. building. This included removing their books from the company library. My brother Stephen and I filled forty boxes. What do we do with so many books? We donated them to Mission Arlington (www.missionarlington.org).
The above examples remind me of several generosity insights. We learn instantaneous generosity by observing others practicing it. I find coins in the store parking lot, put them in my pocket and follow my associate Paul’s example of giving them to customers at the checkout. The best kind of generosity is giving because we want to give. I tried to reimburse my youthful associate the $5 she gave to the customer because I viewed her as a poor high school student. She turned me down because, as she told me, “I wanted to give it.” The smallest gift is not necessarily an insignificant gift. It’s a small gift that may loom a lifetime in a person’s or family’s memory book. As long as I have a memory I’ll always remember Elizabeth’s instantaneous generosity and tells others about it. Guilt can crop up when we observe people’s instantaneous generosity. I remember guilt percolating up to the surface of my mind after Elizabeth was so kind to me. I thought about generosity opportunities in gone-by situations when I didn’t act instantaneously generous like her. Guilt can motivate us to desire a more God-like generosity mindset. It may be the catalyst to liberate what our closed hands grip so tightly in order to benefit others as we become more instantaneously generous. It’s okay to make plans to be generous too. The wise men traveled a long distance to do their giving which implies planning. They made their plans and executed them because they wanted to give gifts to honor the Messiah who they found out to be Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph. What we give away through instantaneous generosity or planned giving may last a lifetime or for eternity.