Each summer we head to New York on our annual journey to the old home place where Dw and his three brothers grew up. The early 1900s-something white farmhouse (with its delightful front and back porches) will forever hold countless memories for all of us. We are incredibly grateful his brother Dan bought it when his parents both passed. Probably our favorite part of all of it is that, Dan, a near-lifelong bachelor, welcomes our big pile of rowdies for as long as we can stay. He’s such a generously kind man and we have an absolute blast with him. Late nights spent talking on the porch with him and old friends who stop by to visit (oh the laughter!), dinners each night at the long tables in front of the barn and just making memories all cause us to long for the home place. In fact the kids start asking when we are leaving to go East by mid-January each year!
While staying there I drive to Buffalo every couple of days to spend time with my mom and dad. They have been divorced for many years and live in two different places. My dad has had Alzheimer’s disease for quite a few years now and is in a memory care unit. The senior residence where my mom lives gives her the opportunity to still live independently.
This summer while at my moms she took the kids and I down the hall to meet some of her friends. Like any good grandma, she loves to show-off her grands. My mom had mentioned her friend, Evelyn (name changed) many times before and we were looking forward to meeting her.
Evelyn spotted my sweet pile of rowdies walking down the long hall toward her and she squealed excitedly and disappeared inside her door. By the time we reached her door she had thrown it open with her hands filled while exclaiming, “I haven’t been shopping in a few days but here take these cookies and this other kind of cookie as well. Here! Take these crackers too!”
We laughed and explained that we hadn’t come down for a snack nor did we want to take her food. She insisted! She clearly wanted to shower us with goodies. We again told her we couldn’t take them. And although I can’t remember what little wise comment she made, I remember thinking, “This Miss Evelyn is really a live wire!” After a sweet visit we eventually moseyed on down the hall to greet a few others.
As we came back toward Miss Evelyn’s apartment she was still outside and we paused to talk again. She had told me earlier than she was 96 – such a spry ball-of-enthusiasm for a 96-year-old treasure – a true delight to spend time with. While talking this time I questioned, “So what is the secret of living 96 years, Miss Evelyn?” She answered without missing a beat, “Be generous with everyone.”
Months later, her words are still echoing in my ears causing me to spend a lot of time thinking about generosity.
Looking back over my own life I personally think the people who I have felt the most loved by were, interestingly enough, those who were generous to me. I can remember the generous kindness of my 5th grade teacher. I had a mysterious and actually pretty serious problem that left me completely unable to walk during my fifth grade year. While the medical professionals did what seemed to be a zillion tests, I was left in the hospital, completely alone (except for an occasional visit) for many weeks. During that time Miss C, my 5th grade teacher, sent me a beautiful wicker basket arrangement overflowing with white daisies along with a kind note. It was my first time ever being sent flowers and to this day, white daisies are still my most favorite of all – by a landslide! And if they were to ever be in a wicker basket – quadruple points!
My guess is that my 5th grade teacher’s generosity spoke volumes to me because, for one, I knew she didn’t have to do anything. As a 5th grader, it had never even crossed my mind that she would remember I was in the hospital – let alone send me a gorgeous flower arrangement. Yet her over-the-top generosity to my 5th grade heart gave me hope! Of course she had no clue that I’d been alone almost every day and night or what I had been enduring in my home for that matter. But looking back I remember how her arrangement spoke to places deep within my soul causing me to wonder why she thought I was worthy of her generosity. Because friends, in the midst of abuse, you don’t really think you are worthy of anything beautiful or good. But that would be a lie – because you truly are!
In fact I remember thinking that Miss C, a beautiful single teacher, probably had a million and one things she could have spent her money on but she showered me with generous love and kindness. To receive her flowers meant she was thinking about me! Obviously, with my fifth grade year decades ago it is notable that Miss C’s generosity is still at the top of my list of “generous love”.
There are other examples from my life of people like Miss C – so very kind and generous – the memory of their generosity etched in my heart forever. So it was that Miss Evelyn’s words again reminded me (and challenged me) of what type of women I want to be remembered as and here’s the short list:
Generous with my love toward others. (Admittedly I want to be known as having extra sprinkles of generosity toward the vulnerable, the weak, the orphan and those with special needs)!
Generous with my “stuff”!
Generous with encouraging, uplifting and hope-filled words toward every single person I ever meet.
How about you?
What generosity from a friend or family member do you still recall years later?