Give it away, give it away, give it away now…

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The practice of generosity.

On a yoga retreat in Mexico, I mentioned in passing to my teacher that I liked the sweatshirt she was wearing.  It was soft and grey, with short sleeves (totally my style!) and I asked her where she got it.  “You know what,” she replied, “You should just have it Diane, here take it.”  Peeling it off her lithe frame, she offered it to me.

“No, I couldn’t possibly,” I stammered.  The entire table of lunching ladies was listening.  I couldn’t have them think I just begged for the shirt off her back…and then TOOK it.  My cheeks flushed with embarrassment.  “No, absolutely not, I can’t take your sweatshirt.  That’s ridiculous. I am perfectly capable of buying my own.”

Unfazed, she continued,  “That’s not the point. It’s no big deal, I have others like it and if you really want it, you should have it.”  I was dumbfounded.  I mean I did like it, and she seemed to be sincerely offering it.  Then she dropped the wisdom on me, adding, “Please.  By refusing, you are actually denying me the opportunity to practice generosity.  If you take it, you are allowing me this opportunity to grow my practice.”

She had a point.  Framed in the context of helping her practice generosity instead of fulfilling my covetous need, it made sense.  It didn’t seem selfish, rather, it seemed selfish not to accept.  “Are you sure?” I asked.  

“100%.  Just promise me, that you, will do the same for someone else.  Pay it forward.”   

Touched by her generosity, her non-attachment, openness and kindness, I awkwardly accepted. In that small exchange, she demonstrated qualities I was looking to cultivate more in myself, but hadn’t recognized the opportunities to practice.  I vowed to pay it forward.

In the next year, I became more aware of those opportunities.  When a friend asked me where I got my hiking bag, I gave it to her, telling her the story of my teacher’s sweatshirt, using the exact phrase, “By refusing to take it from me, you are denying me the opportunity to practice generosity.”  She couldn’t refuse.   

Another time, my friend, talented writer, Jenny from The Suburban Jungle visited and really liked my grey straw fedora, one of my favorite hats.  She wanted to find one exactly like it.  We went shopping and couldn’t.  As I dropped her at the airport, I handed her the hat.  Telling her the same story, with the same powerful phrase, she accepted.  It made me feel energized to grow my practice of generosity by giving one of my beloved possessions away.    

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She left with the perfect hat to take to summer camp, but I was left with so much more.  A stronger connection to her, a sense of pride for growing my awareness and the feeling that it can be better to give than to receive.  Now whenever someone asks me where I got something, I try to at least consider offering it to them.  If I can spare it or replace it, it’s theirs.   It’s really fun to see how surprised people are when you do that.   Plus it’s a great way to keep your closet clean. 😉

When she got home, Jenny shared with me how the hat exchange had sparked her thinking and awareness and how she was affected by such a small gesture.   It was more than a hat, it was paying it forward, connecting us and opening up a whole new level of conversation, and for that I’m truly grateful.

How do you practice generosity?

 

P.S. For the record, just don’t come around and start asking me where I got my favorite boots.  Those suckers are staying with me.  And they probably wouldn’t fit you anyway.  

 

10 thoughts on “Give it away, give it away, give it away now…

  • March 25, 2015 at 10:03 am
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    That hat was an eye opening experience. I never knew I could look so good in a fedora.
    No wait…
    That wasn’t the eye opening part… I was struck by the generosity of it and it did in fact enhance our connection, but also my faith in little kindnesses.

    I have paid it forward with an adorable pink keurig that I insisted a friend have. I know… Random, but the thought of someone enjoying it makes me happier than it made me to own it.

    In other news I’m going broke at Starbucks.

    Love you, your hat, and your kind heart!
    Jenny

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    • March 25, 2015 at 4:29 pm
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      Love you too Jenny! You crack me up. Looking forward to an opportunity where we can collab soon. xoxo

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  • March 25, 2015 at 11:10 am
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    This is such an awesome story. And cute sweatshirt, too. *wink, wink*

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    • March 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm
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      Thanks Grace! I do love that sweatshirt. 🙂 Loved that you got to meet the FOTB guys, nice work!

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    • March 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm
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      Thanks Jen! …and in the spirit of the post, yes, you can have my hair. LOL xoxo

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  • March 29, 2015 at 4:34 pm
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    Great post!!
    I’ve done this a lot throughout my life – its just in my nature! …to offer or give away.
    I must admit it has made people some feel a little uncomfortable and surprised – that was never my intention to make it feel intimidating or that Im wanting something in return… giving something away or offering to a friend just makes me feel good!

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    • April 8, 2015 at 1:38 pm
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      Thank you for sharing this! So great to find like-minded people in the world. xo

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  • May 28, 2015 at 7:38 pm
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    I love this! I just gave away my favorite hat to a friend–we were at her pre-wedding party and she was going on vacation. The hat looked great on her, so I gave it to her. I felt so good sharing the joy! That’s also a part of swapping, for me. We need to have another swap party, Diane! 🙂

    Reply
  • June 22, 2015 at 8:16 am
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    I’m disappointed to have not seen any new posts for a while. This has been a great site and would love to see you keep it up!

    Reply

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