Love is, above all, the gift of oneself. ~ Jean Anouilh
As we head into the week of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d pick up the torch that Sasha Dichter of the Acumen Fund lit a couple of years ago. His idea to reboot Valentine’s Day as Generosity Day is an opportunity to reframe another commercialized holiday into something that gets to the heart of celebration and community. He encourages us to “make the day about love, action and human connection–because we can do better than smarmy greeting cards, overpriced roses, and stressed-out couples trying to create romantic meals on the fly.” Love is a big emotion that encompasses so many relationships in our lives, not just the romantic ones. I like the idea of transforming this holiday into something bigger and more powerful by showing love to your community by being generous in new ways.
Which reminds me of an encounter with the man who sells Real Change outside our local coffee shop. We walk by on a pretty regular basis and he always says hello, asks how we’re doing, comments on Liam’s bike. No pressure to buy a paper and I always feel a little guilty for not carrying cash. On one particular day I had $2 crumpled in my pocket so I gave the money to Liam and he introduced himself and the man said, “It’s nice to meet you Liam, my name is __________”. This is the part of the story I’m ashamed of: I walked away and couldn’t tell you his name. I was more focused on my kid and our end of the transaction than actually making a connection. A month after that encounter we were walking down this street again, Liam flying by on his bike, and he came screeching to a halt and said, “Hi George!!” and George lit up, “Hi! How’s it going? Cool bike!” As we got to the end of the block, the biggest gob-smack grin on my face, I said to Liam, “Is that really his name? I didn’t remember his name.” And Liam said, “Yeah Mom, he’s George. He told me.” And that’s the part of the story I’m proud of. My kid got the point of that relationship; not a transaction, a connection.
I think about how good it feels to now greet George by name and I wonder how many other opportunities like this I miss every day because I’m stuck in the logistical transaction rather than the relationship. Can remembering someone’s name truly be seen as an act of generosity? If it strengthens connections and makes someone perk up and smile, it’s a gift. You give of yourself when you slow down and acknowledge someone else; and the gift of oneself, as Anouilh says, is love. This Friday, February 14, I’m going to make a point of making a connection and doing something generous, something out of my comfort zone, that gives another person the feeling of being seen and cared about. I’m getting excited about the possibilities of finding myself in a spontaneous situation of generosity.
You can find ideas of simple generosity on the Random Acts of Kindness page (they actually celebrate this concept all week, not just v-day) or, ya know, ask your kids. Mine seem to lead the way on this type of thing. I hope you’ll join me in this challenge to ‘reboot Valentine’s Day’ – and let me know how it goes.