“The true law of life is that we generate more of whatever seems scarce by trusting its supply and passing it around. Authentic abundance does not lie in secured stockpiles of food or cash or influence or affection but in belonging to a community where we can give those goods to others who need them – and receive them from others when we are in need.”
I love this quote by Parker Palmer. It so beautifully connects the idea of generosity to being part of a community with others.
Several months ago I was having brunch with some friends and we got on the topic of panhandlers. All four of us had a different way of thinking about and thus responding to strangers who are asking for a ‘handout’. Collectively, our stories about whether or not to give reflected both ends of the spectrum and a few in the middle. They ranged from “I don’t want to enable bad behavior” or “He probably has more money in his pocket right now than I do” to “If I had a dollar I’d just give it to him”.
I am curious about how you think about this. When someone approaches you asking for money or food, do you see them as a member of your community? Is that what ultimately determines one’s willingness to pull a dollar out of a pocket? What lies underneath the narrative that each of us have created about why we should or should not do that? I have reflected on my own inclination – which is to just give them some money – and came up with something akin to a shoulder shrug when I think about why I am apt to respond in that way. Nothing particularly profound or virtuous came out of my musings. (Which is shocking to me actually as I can generate some darn good righteous indignation at the drop of a hat) Maybe I just don’t want to expend the energy it takes to decide if I am helping or hurting, being a chump or doing a good deed. Or maybe I am okay with being ‘taken advantage of’ if that person indeed doesn’t need the money because I’d rather risk that than miss an opportunity to be truly helpful.
What I do know is that at this moment in history, I want to be a part of creating community wherever I can. I think it is what is needed to heal the societal wounds that are front and center, particularly during this political season. Imagine what a collective effort around this could do. Everyone doing something each day that weaves us together instead of tears us apart. If you look around, the opportunity to do this will surely show up – perhaps in your house, school, workplace or at the end of an exit ramp.