October 19, 2015

Being Generous, Even on My Worst Day

It’s fall and everyone’s busy. Programs have started up again, kids are back in school, and days feel shorter. During these times, when deadlines are approaching and I feel short on time, I find I have the most trouble being generous. Not generous with my money so much as generous in my attitudes toward my coworkers or fellow community members.

When I’m waiting on a coworker or fellow volunteer to send along some information so I can finish a project, it can be hard to remember that they probably have many tasks on their to-do lists and many other things demanding their time. When I’m stressed, I’m a little less likely to give other people the benefit of the doubt.

Being generous with others, being stewards of our good will and the time we take to understand each other, is part of loving our neighbors as ourselves. I’d like others to give me the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes I have to put volunteer activities aside so I can focus on a project at work for a week or two, and sometimes a high priority request at work means other tasks have to wait. This happens to everyone.

Imagine yourself on your worst day. Imagine the dumb thing you said or the deadline you missed because you were overworked or the blog you wrote too hastily. Remember how much it means to hear others say out loud that they like your work or express sympathy when you were ill. And remember that everyone else feels basically the same.

I’m not saying we should coddle each other. Many have the opposite problem: the Church sometimes suffers from excess niceness. I’d like to know when I’ve made a mistake or when I need to improve my work or when I’ve said something hurtful. We can do both. We can be good stewards of our criticism and our praise. 

On social media, for example, when I’m feeling a little grouchy, I am tempted to occasionally post an article I find annoying with the simple commentary, “This is dumb.” I’m sure others have felt the same urge with something I’ve written at some point. But this is neither kind nor helpful. Sometimes we should let things go, unless they are actually harmful. On the other time, I appreciate it when someone tells me they think I missed the point in a blog and it means a lot to me when someone tells me they like something I’ve done. 

Generosity towards others is really just another way of saying we are called to have empathy for others. It’s hardest when we are busy or stressed, but also most important. Remembering that when we’re having our busiest or worst day, those around us might be, too, is one of the ways we love our neighbors. 

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