We hear that it’s better to give than to receive, and my experience is that when I give of myself the world feels friendlier.
Last night, driving to a restaurant (in retrospect I must have been distracted by life and loss), I missed an unfamiliar turn off that appeared 100 yards before the light, and then I attempted a hard right turn when I reached the intersection. Next thing I knew my car came to a hard stop; a family member jumped out and, holding up a hubcap, reported that I not only had a flat tire but that the rubber sidewall had a big rip in it.
Feeling like I was wandering through a dream, I backed up, made a wider turn around the raised concrete barrier I had hit, then drove very slowly–to the limping rhythm of a completely airless tire–until I reached the closest parking spot about 500 yards further on. I looked behind to see who I was inconveniencing and there was a red pickup truck that seemed in no hurry.
When I finally parked the car, got out and saw with my own eyes that the outer edge of the front passenger tire had a tear the size of a pack of cigarettes, I saw that the red pickup, still running, was parked directly behind us and that the driver was already walking toward the front of the Prius with a large hydraulic jack in his hands.
Still in a kind of dream state, quite familiar these days, we found the spare under the removable floor in the back hatch. By then the Good Samaritan had jacked up the front, returned for the spare tire and a lug nut wrench, and returned to the front of the car.
He was so cheerful, energetic and ready for life. He said he was from Hobbs down south, was now in Albuquerque to take tests to be certified as an electrician, and that he had just passed his second exam. I had the impression that he was celebrating his success and was ‘paying it forward’ to us. And it worked. The feeling of helplessness that had shown up moments before, and in whose aftermath I felt at a loss about how to proceed, seemed a manifestation of a more pervasive feeling in life (not just for me but for many people). And to have the world provide just what I needed in order to continue on my way, was profoundly heartening.
Perhaps part of generosity is to feel good when we are on the receiving end. After all, we all know that it feels good when we are in the right place and time with the right knowledge, and are able to help some bewildered soul take their next step in life. So we can also be glad for all involved when someone steps into our lives and gives us a hand across a gap that has opened on the path before us.
A dimension of generosity is to feel grateful for the connections that flow all around us: the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the sunlight falling over the ground from which all living beings have come forth.
We can feel glad that we live in a realm in which such natural helpfulness is present—on whichever side of the giving transaction we happen, this time, to find ourselves.