The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

“Inspiring Generosity” on the road

by Barbara Bonner
May 12, 2014
Mon, 05/12/2014 - 13:01 -- Barbara Bonner

The following was originally published at The Huffington Post.Editor's note

I have recently been traveling on the first leg of what is known as the “book tour” with my new book Inspiring Generosity. A novice at this adventure, I find myself moved and astonished at what I have found in my travels.

First, the audiences who come out to hear about the book and what I have learned from researching and writing about generosity, invariably bring extraordinarily warm and caring hearts to the conversation.

They tend to be imbued with a real determination to make life better, whether for just one person, a family, community, organization or even the world at large. They want to engage in a conversation not just about giving money away but about how we can create generous lives for ourselves and those we love. I often find that one person in the audience will be moved to tears. As we go deeper in the conversation what I discover is that underneath all the talk about giving lies a profound yearning for a life of greater meaning. Generosity is one pathway into that life.

When taxi drivers ask me why I’m in their town and I tell them I have written a book about generosity, they always have stories to tell. The stories are so moving that I wish I were still writing the book and could include them. Many talk about wonderful causes they give time or money to. Since my professional life is in the nonprofit world, I am always on the lookout for new organizations that wrap around people’s hearts. This week in St. Louis, for instance, a driver told me that he spends his free time volunteering for a shelter for blind cats. This was a new one for me and it was such a joy to hear him speak so passionately about how this work had enriched his life.

In a journalism class at Wake Forest University several students were so moved by the discussion that they wanted to talk about how they were searching for ways to thank their parents for the great generosity involved in paying one of the highest tuitions in the country. Once the generosity conversation opened up, their gratitude just poured forth in very moving ways. They left the class determined to put that gratitude into words. Some hoped that giving the book would speak for them.

At a book event at the renowned McIntyre’s Book Store in Fearrington Village, N.C. a young couple with a new baby wanted to talk about their hope that they would be able to raise a generous child. Soon the entire audience joined in with suggestions for how even the youngest children can become engaged in generous acts. In fact, people are always so heartened to hear the newest research coming out of many universities around the country that points convincingly to generosity being an inborn human quality, observable even in young babies.

The part of my talks that I always look forward to the most is the question and answer session after my prepared remarks. When people talk about the role generosity plays in their lives they almost always talk about other people’s generosity toward them and how it has impacted their lives. Something about getting real about this subject precludes any tooting of one’s own horn.

As people come to ask me sign and inscribe their books it always surprises me that so many people buy four or five copies as gifts. The explanation is always the same. They want to thank the people whose generosity has impacted their lives in wonderful ways. The Mothers’ Day book buyers are especially grateful to be able to offer a book that puts their gratitude into words.

My experience on the road offers a resounding affirmation that generosity is alive and well, on people’s minds and in their hearts as they look for lives that walk the talk. Without knowing it, these wonderful people I am now lucky enough to meet are living daily lives committed to just what I hope to inspire.

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