Generosity Can Be Creative, Free, and It Can Build Community
Editor's Note: Read the Matt Webb of One Year Road Trip interview here to learn about his family fulfilling a dream to travel the US and film a documentary about a Generation of Generosity. Also, be sure to check out their monthly column here on consciousmagazine.co featuring their Generation of Generosity stories.
Our project’s title is One Year Road Trip: Generation of Generosity, and highlights kids around the US who are living generously and doing world-changing projects that inspire and reflect altruism, empathy and care for others. We fully expected to witness and be moved by the generosity we found in these young change-makers. What we did not anticipate was being humbled and, at times, overwhelmed, by the generosity of others toward us. We have been the unsuspecting recipients of loads of kindness, care, compassion, and gifts. It’s been wonderfully encouraging and transforming, and we have gained new insights about generosity along the way.
Generosity Can Be Creative
For the past several years our family has learned that we have more resources at our fingertips than we often realize. We found that we could live in less space and offer a room to international students or travelers passing through town. Throughout these first weeks of our journey we’ve seen new and creative ways of sharing resources in order to be generous, many of which are not expensive or inconvenient.
Friends old and new have shared with us their time, a meal, the use of the laundry room, childcare, a spare room, a warm shower, or even an outlet to plug in the trailer. Folks have let us carpool with them so we don’t put extra miles on the van and helped us change the oil to save on maintenance expenses. One woman give us a ride from the store to our van on the far side of the parking lot during a downpour, and we gained a new friend named Nancy.
Creative generosity can mean being open to new ideas and not demanding our own way. One young change-maker, Hannah, took an idea from our daughter, Solveig, that was a little out of left field and ran with it. Together they created something really lovely for a foster child in Kansas City.
One way we’ve been working on modeling creative generosity is by learning humility and admitting when we are wrong, especially with our kids. We’ve found that admitting we are wrong and asking for forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids, and one that we hope they’ll learn to give freely to others.
Generosity Can Be Free
Often when we think of generosity we think about giving something away monetarily. At times when we are feeling the financial pinch it can be overwhelming and even depressing to think about all the ways we are unable to help others. However, we’re finding that it doesn’t require great financial sacrifice to be generous. In fact, many of our experiences with generosity have cost nothing monetarily.
On more than one occasion we have seen the fathers of young change-makers we are interviewing start to cry because they are moved by the work of their own children. Their vulnerability and willingness to reveal themselves is a tremendously generous gift to our family, whom they have just met.
At other times we have received the gifts of unsolicited stories, honest answers, questions that show personal interest in our family, and going the extra mile to express delight or appreciation for what we are doing. This transparency and openness not only encourages us, but it has helped us start developing genuine relationships with these people that we hope to continue in spite of the geographic distance between us.
A few free gifts we have received include smiles, hugs, encouraging and heart-felt words, a short prayer, eye contact, help loading and unloading the van, a parking spot for our van and trailer, and an email or text to let us know we are being thought of hundreds and maybe thousands of miles away.
Generosity Can Simply Blow You Away
On a few occasions we have been utterly shocked by the tremendous generosity of those we’ve met along the way. One family insisted that we stay in their home, they paid for all of our meals, carpooled us everywhere in town and made time to play with us and get to know us better. One woman we barely know gave us a large donation that will sustain us for more than a month on the road. Another family who struggles financially gave generously of their want and supplied all our needs for an entire week. More than one person has simply and sincerely said, “Whatever you need. Please call.”
It’s not often that we as a family even think to give so freely, so unhesitatingly, and so liberally. But as we’ve seen so many people on this journey act in this way, we have, in small ways, learned to give with less hesitation and more generously than we are accustomed to. We’ve been inspired to help folks in need fill up their gas tanks, buy a meal (or a few) for friends in tight financial situations, and take time out of our schedule to stop, listen and be with folks who simply need someone to show that they care.
Generosity Builds Community
Generosity makes the world smaller, and brings us into another person’s story in a way that makes us more open, vulnerable, and caring.
We mentioned learning humility and admitting when we are wrong. That sort of gift builds trust, and trust is a two-way street. Consequently, when we open ourselves to serving and growing community we actually increase our own chances of being the recipients of generosity. That’s not to say that we should give in order to receive, but rather, when we give freely to others we model for and spark something in others to act likewise. When enough people within a community act generously, sooner or later everyone benefits as they invest in one another.
As the recipients of great generosity we’ve realized that we are not alone. Our community of support is bigger than we thought—than we ever imagined—and growing every day. That inspires us to engage more with others we meet. We can’t give financially to everyone’s cause, but we can give of ourselves in a variety of creative ways that are sincere and may be equally impacting.
It’s easy to talk about making change, to dream big, and to imagine a world different than what we experience. And to you, what we’re writing here may seem naïve at least and fanciful at best. But the fact is, this is our experience of the past six weeks living on the road with the One Year Road Trip project. This fanciful dream is being lived out in homes and communities across the US. We’ve seen it in action. It’s what our whole project is about! If all of America learned to live more generously on a regular basis—if we decided to give with less fear or apprehension—how much better could our world be? How much better WOULD our world be…?
From the Editor
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