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Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2015 Brian Remer
Updated Nov. 2015
99's on the 9th
based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.
November 2015 - Heartfelt Giving: The source of generosity
Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.
You might assume that Generous Street in Brattleboro, Vermont, would be broad and long with prosperous businesses and large, stately homes. In fact, it's probably the shortest in town, just one block long. Only eight modest houses line this dead-end street.
Some people may think Generous Street is misnamed but I don't agree. Generosity can come from skimming off one's excess wealth. However, it can also come from a big heart, a spirit of abundance, a realization that I have enough for both myself and to share.
We don't have to let our resources dictate our generosity.
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.
You'd think that the word "generous" might inspire street names across the country. And it has - in exactly two other cities.
You can find Generous Avenue in Buzzards Bay on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. There, not far from Camp Edwards airfield and nestled between Izzea Street and Grandville Avenue, you'll find it. With one house, it's just one block long.
Then there's Generous Court in North Las Vegas, Nevada. You'll find it just off of Gracious Crest Avenue. And though the houses look large from Google's aerial view on my computer, there are only six on this cul de sac which again is only a block long.
How interesting that, of the hundreds of thousands of communities across the U.S., only three have streets that share the name "generous" - a word that we use quite often. Even more interesting is that they are all off the beaten path and just one block long. It's as if we somehow know without saying it out loud that a lot can come from very little; that true generosity comes from an abundance that's intangible and cannot be quantified.
Taking a short walk down Generous Street gives us an opportunity to talk about a subject we might otherwise dismiss as common sense. What is the source of our generosity? This is a valid question for both our communities and our organizations because generosity is connected to reciprocity and trust, two key ingredients that fuel our relationships as social beings.
There are many reasons people share their resources. Here are a few:
Empathy - They have been destitute themselves or know people in need personally. We all tend to help people who are most like us.
Religion - Sharing is consistent with their beliefs. Giving alms or tithing one's income are taught as part of a spiritual tradition. We might say, "God loves a cheerful giver."
Gratitude - They feel fortunate for what they have now or for what they have once received themselves. They are motivated to give something to others in return for the benefits they have enjoyed.
Contribution - They seek meaning and purpose for their lives by sharing gifts, talents, skills, and wisdom in order to create a stronger community.
Legacy - They realize how their present actions build a foundation for a future result that they, themselves, may not live to see. Yet that result is important for the wellbeing of those who come after them.
Curiously, people of the lowest income bracket in the United States tend to give a larger proportion of their income than those who earn the most. According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, the poorest fifth of America's households contributed an average of 4.3 percent of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1 percent.
What makes poor people's generosity even more impressive is that their giving generally isn't tax-deductible, because they don't earn enough to justify itemizing their taxes. In effect, giving a dollar to charity costs poor people a dollar while it costs those who itemize 65 cents.
How is generosity integrated into your organization, your community, your home? In a competitive workplace and a society with a growing disparity between rich and poor, there is still room to discover what a genuine sharing economy might be. Perhaps it begins with the realization that, "we don't have to let our resources dictate our generosity."
"America's poor are its most generous givers" by Robert Greves, McClatchy Newspapers, 2009. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article24538864.html
Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.
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