Present Tense


I’ve been thinking a lot about generosity.  I think that truly happy people know that their happiness comes from getting outside of themselves and swimming with the other humans in the sea of humanity.

I do not tend toward generosity.  I say that sadly and certainly not with pride.  I close myself off from people.  It’s some sort of defense mechanism that I developed as a young ‘un and the intensity waxes and wanes with the situation.  I’m working on changing that.

I think that in our culture, we equate generosity with philanthropy or financial donations or support.  If you give money, you’re generous.  That may be true…or it may not.  There are plenty of folks who hand out bills or write checks that lack true generosity. What I’m talking about, we’ll call generosity of spirit.

In a nutshell, generosity of spirit means that you greet pretty much everyone and every situation with an open heart.  You cut them some slack.  You realize that we all struggle together on this big blue marble.  Generosity of spirit means you soften when you see people’s pain, rather than judge them with a “well, you made your bed, now lay in it”.

Generosity of spirit requires empathy and the realization that underneath people’s bad or annoying (i.e. human) behavior, there is a soul that needs nurturing, just like you do.  That we all share 99.9% of our DNA and that as humans, we thrive on kindness and compassion from our compadres instead of the much easier, criticism and impatience.

There are cultures around the world (many of which as proud Americans, we make fun of as soft or poor or ‘third world’) where generosity is prized above all else.  Where you are expected to love your neighbor and see to their comfort and happiness and in turn, you bless yourself.  American values stress rugged individualism, making our own way, taking care of #1.  Which could be the reason why EVERYONE complains that nobody is very nice anymore. Are you nice?  Are you generous?  All the time?  Me, neither.

But, I’m professionally successful and financially well-off and I have two nice houses and a couple of cars and lots of stuff.  I should be ecstatic!  I’m not.

I’m working on opening up my heart to people, ideas, nature,  compassion and the love that I believe underscores life on earth.  That also means opening up to pain, grief, jealousy, envy, hate, anger and all of the things that lead to our suffering and struggling as we make our way.  Embracing the good stuff, while recognizing and allowing the bad, is the way to awaken to our short and finite time on earth.  Our culture does not help us on this path….at all.

It’s a process for me and I slip up and backslide everyday.  Some situations prompt me to old behavior where I close down,  curl up into my little protective ball of ‘me’ and ignore the needs of those around me.  I snap or bark or toss out a stinging, smart-ass remark, when I should smile and listen and encourage.  Two steps forward, one step back.  The key is not to hate myself for my shortcomings.  To practice the same generosity toward myself that I want to project to others.

I wish you well, I wish you freedom from suffering.  May you live a life of ease and peace.

May 4, 2013 - Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , ,


  1. Beautiful Jane, Beautiful 🙂 Thank You. Being an introvert, I can truly appreciate this.

    Comment by benzintensiveme | May 4, 2013 | Reply

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure how introversion plays into this. I’m actually a bit of an introvert myself, but I think that generosity is universal, isn’t it?

      Comment by janelondon | May 4, 2013 | Reply

  2. I can relate—I’m also an introvert. In addition, my mom lived with us for 7 years and I kept busy between work, her dr appts, etc. and didn’t take that much time for me. I was an only child so I’m used to being by myself and difficult for me to do. Now I realize I’m somewhat adrift and it seems life has gone on without me in some ways. I try to have empathy most of the time but it seems there are days when life just knocks it out of you.

    Comment by Tania | May 4, 2013 | Reply

    • Tania, I’m not sure what being an introvert has to do with this post, but I appreciate your thoughts. Best of luck.

      Comment by janelondon | May 4, 2013 | Reply

  3. Most generous of actions are those that involve time spent with someone that expected little from you but gained so much from the time you gave. To me, it is the look on the face, the smile of recognition that someone cares and didn’t have to. We are so fortunate to have what we do. There are so many, especially children that just benefit from the presence of someone who notices them and will keep them safe. Yep, I went back to kids again didn’t I. Adults need that to. With all that we have going, graduate schools, mortgages, job changes, we still can take that moment to hold a door for someone, or help them with their groceries. Thanks for another great topic Jane.

    Comment by Tim | May 4, 2013 | Reply

    • Tim:
      Kids, adults doesn’t matter. You get it:)

      Comment by janelondon | May 4, 2013 | Reply

  4. Jane;
    I’ve listened to your radio talk show for many years now. I have to say you have really transformed in the last 5 years to a softer Jane. This blog is just another sign of this “Jane”. I don’t pretend to know you in the least; it’s just my view of what I hear every day and read from your blog on occasion.
    I wanted to give my 2 cents worth..

    Comment by Pam | May 5, 2013 | Reply

    • Pam
      Thanks for the note. It’s been a conscious effort and decision on my part and I’m grateful that A: you noticed and b: took a moment to write to me. That means a lot.
      Glad you listen!

      Comment by janelondon | May 5, 2013 | Reply

  5. I constantly remind myself that everyone has a story. I am in no position to judge them. I am training my brain to STOP thinking those negative thoughts, because I don’t know what is behind those faces in the crowd. So here’s a smile, think what you want about me:)

    Comment by kandisnz | May 5, 2013 | Reply

  6. I think I get what you are saying Jane…that it doesn’t come “naturally” for you to open up yourself to those around you. I’m not talking about opening up in the sense of spilling your life story or expressing all of your emotions on those you come in contact with. What I mean is that you see yourself as someone that may be a bit closed off, but doesn’t want to be. Your “generosity of spirit” means that you want to be someone who can look beyond where you have looked in the past. Perhaps seeing others in a more compassionate way rather than feeling the need to stay within your own safe world of just dealing with what you are used to. I think you are saying that many people are like this which makes it difficult and challenging to move forward and grow. Happiness goes beyond “things”. It involves a sense of feeling a true understanding and acceptance of self. If we strive to be more involved and understanding of those around us and open our hearts just a bit more, perhaps a true feeling of happiness will be the result.

    Comment by Katie | May 5, 2013 | Reply

    • Katie:
      Yes, tht’s exactly what I’m saying. You’re spot on. Having said that, I should clarify that I’m using my personal experience because that’s all I REALLY know, but everyone can find ways to express ‘generosity of spirit’ in their lives, even if they aren’t like me:)
      I got several comments on my FB from people who said they were generous and yet, they were careful as to who they would bestow it upon, based on whether or not they took advantage of them in the past. My feeling is that true generosity of spirit doesn’t make those distinctions. Everyone is worthy. And that is why it’s difficult for many of us.
      Thanks so much for your insightful comments. Glad you took the time to write.

      Comment by janelondon | May 5, 2013 | Reply

  7. […] Generosity=Happiness ( […]

    Pingback by Realization that Tipping is a Habit | Curious Monkey 247 | May 17, 2013 | Reply

  8. Don’t come here often, sorry Jane, just not much time. But your FB posting sent me here recently and i was intrigued by the heading of this one. I expected it to be about being generous of money, not spirit. Was very surprised to see that it reflected alot of what I feel about myself. I often retreat into the ‘ball of me’!. But when I step out of my comfort zone and actually reach out to people with a compassionate hello, or whatnot, it does lift my spirits. But it’s so darn difficult! I believe getting older and living in a retirement community has helped me tremendously. I have learned so much from the older people here. I love how you described the bad or annoying behavior and the soul that needs nurturing underneath. So often the much ‘older’ people here frustrate me to no end with their slow driving, slow walking, etc. But when I take the time to actually talk with some of them I discover so much about them that is not evident to the human eye. Many have been through so much in life, and have wonderful experiences to share. it’s amazing! We often say here that you never know who you are going to run into. Just the other day my husband met an ex-Bronco player who is retired and living here, who was blown away by our new golf cart that is decorated all in blue and orange with Bronco labels. We have over 100,000 people here over 55 (the Villages, FL) and they represent absolutely every walk of life. Anyway, thanks for the blog subject. And I’m with you, two steps forward and one back. I am on the continual journey to better myself and have more compassion for my fellow human being.

    Comment by Stephanie Sillery Sanford | June 25, 2013 | Reply

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