These lovely flowers grace the doorstep of a store in Carbondale, Colorado. They put here for all to enjoy, freely shared with the passersby. They are meant for everyone, not just one, hence the sign in them, “Thank you for not picking me.” I found this sign cute and amusing, but it’s a polite little reminder that by a simple inaction – not picking the flowers – you can give the beauty to others as well.
Today I am thinking of generosity and service and how this fits with creating our best work and our best lives. I started thinking on this from an idea in Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, which I am still reading and loving. She writes:
How to be Lucky: Be generous. I don’t use that word lightly. Generosity is luck going in the opposite direction, away from you. If you’re generous to someone, if you do something to help him out, you are in effect making him lucky. This is important. It’s like inviting yourself into a community of good fortune.
Doesn’t that quote just feel right? Generosity is luck flowing out. We get as much, or more, from that outflow than when things are coming to us. And I think the kind of generosity she is talking is not about money, it is about spirit and heart. What do we have to offer others? Is it a smile, a phone call? We can be generous with our time and our attention. Our knowledge. Our encouragement, support and enthusiasm. There are a million ways we can be generous every day, and the first step may be leaving the flowers alone so that others can enjoy them too.
Building on this, another idea came my way this morning, via the Brave Girls Club “Daily Truths”emails (you too can sign up for these, go here). The email says:
Dear Influential Girl,
There is a beautiful and little known secret to happiness that it sometimes takes us way too long to finally learn….and it is one that we can start practicing today, fabulous friend.
When life feels overwhelming, upsetting or grim…we can instantly change our outlook on things by getting out and serving someone else. Somehow, when we turn our focus to someone else, and especially to making their load lighter, or their day brighter…it comes back to us ten times stronger even than what we put out. That is some sweet math, isn’t it?
If things are tough right now, even if you feel like you don’t have time……just try it out. Make a phone call, write a kind note…..bake some cookies or make a piece of art for someone. Take time to really visit….help someone do something that is hard for them and easy for you. Something so beautiful will happen that you will forget about your own sadness for a while…and when things start feeling tough again, you have the power to get out and serve mankind in little ways all over again.
Just try, my friend. It will be worth the effort.
This is one of the most magical facts of life….and it works every time.
I like what they wrote, “…do something that is hard for them and easy for you.” That feels right to me too. Generosity and service don’t have to be hard. They don’t have to be a huge sacrifice in order to “count.” Maybe it’s as simple as sharing something we are good at with others. Maybe it’s just sharing a piece of our art in the form of a postcard in the mail, or a technique on a blog post. I think of these things, because they are how I share. They are what I enjoy doing. I hadn’t quite thought of them quite in the light of generosity and service before.
At the moment we give of ourselves, we are outside of ourselves. We become part of the larger world and are contributing to a greater good. We make the world a more beautiful place. And, while it’s not often our intent with generosity and service, we gain too. We forget our sadness, our own personal issues, and make room for that good fortune Twyla talks about to come our way.
If the first step toward generosity is not picking the flowers, the second step is surely planting and tending a few of our own. I’m pondering what flowers I’m planting today, through simple acts of generosity and service. How about you?