If you have a few minutes, check out this article.
It digs into research on peculiar aspects of human behavior. Namely, that most of us believe ourselves to be generous, but when presented with opportunities to give back, we don’t always embrace them.
“Most people, in fact, think of themselves as generous. In self-assessment studies, people generally see themselves as kind, friendly and honest, too. We imagine that these traits are a set of enduring attributes that sum up who we really are. But in truth, we’re more like chameleons who instinctively and unintentionally change how we behave based on our surroundings.”
I’d be lying if I said generosity always comes naturally. I struggle with it sometimes. Because…money is tight, or I’m tired, or I’d simply rather not give of myself when I already feel like I’m holding on by a thread. What I’m learning though, is that it always feels good to give, even in the smallest doses, even when it’s inconvenient. The goodness goosebumps are worth more than the dollars or time you relinquished.
So there’s that. And then this morning, I watched this video. And I cried…oh, I cried. I was drenched in tears, but also in hopefulness, and reminded of the difference every person can make if we give a little more.
I mean, it’s hard not to feel capable of conquering the world when you learn what people have overcome with the help of others. I see news stories every week that make me think, “Shit. I could never go on if that happened to me. I’d quit…I’d die.”
But these people, these stories, they don’t quit and they don’t die. They carry on, often through the selfless work and donations of others. I don’t know if it’s strength or grace or blind faith, but it’s remarkable the way the human spirit unites us to move past our darkest days. But what if the momentum of goodness and generosity slowed, what would happen?
“In one study, social psychologists placed paper fliers on 139 cars in a large hospital parking lot and watched to see what the car owners would do with them. When drivers emerged from the hospital to find a parking lot littered with scattered fliers, candy wrappers and coffee cups (arranged by the researchers, of course), nearly half of them removed the fliers from their cars and left them on the ground. In contrast, when the researchers swept the parking lot clean before the drivers returned, only 1 in 10 dropped the flier. Unwittingly, the drivers adopted the behavior that seemed most appropriate given their understanding of the area’s prevailing norms.”
This was exactly the reminder I needed that I have to give more, and…I have to talk about it more, educate the “prevailing norms” of others.
Here’s the thing though, I don’t think it’s generosity we lack: I think more often it’s motivation. Which is nuts. When I stopped weeping over my Macbook from this morning’s emotional video, I found it surprisingly easy to give without spending a lot of money. (Or leaving my couch.) (Or showering.)
I gave money to my friend’s fundraising page for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation. She’s running 26 miles, I can forgo a trip to Target.
I called Nordstrom and got them to donate a pair of dress pants and alterations to Leroy, the gentleman featured in the video. It took four minutes.
I found an extra birthday card and addressed it to Candace. That took 48 cents and about two minutes.
I know I’m preachy about this, but if I can proselytize others about anything, let it be giving.