Hey internet people, maybe you’ve heard about it already, but there’s this movement to re-boot Valentine’s day, called Generosity Day. I’m a pretty big fan. If you haven’t heard of it before, I recommend checking out the Facebook page, or Sasha Dichter’s blog.
Also, I really enjoyed the post Parker Mitchell – one of EWB’s co-founders and ex-CEO – wrote about generosity: http://www.parkermitchell.com/2013/02/07/generosity-actually-scares-me/#more-602
I place a lot of value on generosity, and I try to practice being generous wherever I can. Today I did some little “generous” things, and was feeling pretty darned good about myself. Then something happened to shake me out of my self-congratulatory little bubble: someone did something really generous for me. This got me thinking, and I realised that the things I do are usually small, ordinary, and done for personal friends. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything you could call extravagantly, unexpectedly generous.
Backstory: The other day, I posted about Generosity Day on the Facebook page for a class, since we had been discussing secular holidays that day. The post got exactly two “like”s: one from a really close friend, and one from the quiet, thoughtful fellow who always sits at the front of the class. I was a little bummed that nobody got excited about it, but then I got back to fantasizing about how I was going to smile at everyone I passed on February 14th, and brighten up the world. What I never expected was for a simple “like” to become something more…
Today I got an e-mail from my Imagine campaign page, saying that Quiet, Thoughtful Fellow – let’s call him Michael – had donated $50 to my fundraiser for Engineers Without Borders.
Maybe it’s because I’m still a student, and money isn’t something that I have in excess, but $50 is a pretty significant sum in my mind. $50 from a relative stranger was something I would never have expected. I’ll admit that I was confused, and suspicious, and a little uncomfortable, until I connected the dots about Generosity day. Then I had a moment of silent awe. I felt as though Michael had found one of my most vulnerable points, cracked open my shell, and slipped a warm, fuzzy teddy-bear inside, before I even had a chance to notice. It was profoundly weird, but also heartwarming in a way I can’t explain.
To put this in context, let’s go back to December… Engineers Without Borders plays a huge role in my life, and I pour a lot of passion into the organization, so I thought I would use EWB’s holiday fundraising campaign as a way to share some of that passion with family and friends. I made myself pretty vulnerable by sending out personal emails, writing about my hopes and dreams for the world, and by asking for donations in lieu of Christmas presents. Some people gave so much (measured in both money and thoughtful responses) that I felt both humbled and loved. But, at the same time, a number of my closest friends decided to give nothing: not a dollar, not a cent, not even two minutes of their time to read it over. That was also humbling, but in a more painful way.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Michael’s donation means more to me than he could possibly ever know. To have someone who’s practically a stranger say, “I don’t know you, but I support you and your vision for the future. Here’s some money because I believe you can make it happen,” is a like receiving a thousand hugs with a cherry on top.
Now the stakes for next year’s Generosity Day – and every day in between — have been raised. I’ve felt how powerful an extraordinarily generous act can be, and I want to pay it forward. I want to go out of my way to do kind things that are creative, personalised, and completely un-called for. And, of course, I’ll keep my eyes open for ways to return the favour to Michael.
Thank-you, Michael, for making this day more meaningful than all of my Valentine’s (aka Singles’ Awareness) Days combined. Happy Generosity Day, everyone!!