Monday, July 8, 2013

Generosity

a brilliantly blooming cactus in my meditation garden

In these summer months, everyday temperatures soar into the triple digits. Yet even in the hottest and driest of times, the earth continues to yield its rich bounty - trees blossom, cacti bloom, garden vegetables produce abundantly. 

The desert is a great teacher, and at this time of the year I am learning a lesson about generosity.

Although the economy may be improving, we still live in fairly lean times. Many people struggle to survive, just getting by as they live from paycheck to paycheck. Some people have nothing and have been forced to live on the streets. Even the financially stable are careful to guard and protect what they have, assuring that their own personal needs will continue to be satisfied.

As I see it, the economic environment of these times contributes to an overall attitude in the way people live their everyday lives. It fosters an already-existing climate of rugged individualism that runs rampant in the culture. It's much harder to lead a generous life, concerned about the welfare of others, when you are fearful of your own well-being. 

The problem is that when we lead stingy, self-centered lives, we cut ourselves off from others, and this inevitably contributes to our own greater suffering. 

The parish I served in Los Angeles offered the community a "soup kitchen" once a week. Every Friday, a dedicated group of volunteers prepared and served a truly wonderful and richly abundant meal for almost 200 people, many of whom were homeless--some were families with children who depended on that meal or else they would have no food that day. 

In addition to the meal, a small group of musicians from the church and the school formed a little group and every Friday they would come to play for our guests as they ate together in the parish hall. 

One day, one of the homeless men who regularly came every Friday asked if it might be possible for him to play his trumpet along with the other musicians. It was discovered that, at one time, he had been a respected artist but he had fallen on troubled times. Of course we welcomed his participation. 

So, every Friday, he would bring his trumpet along with him (about the only possession he still had), and he would play for that soup kitchen community. It was truly awesome to see all the folks sharing a meal together accompanied by the sounds of a piano, the strains of a violin and clarinet,  and yes, the glorious sound of a trumpet  - a talent generously shared by someone whose life was dry and who had lost it all. 

I relished taking in that Friday evening sight.  It was a perfect icon of generosity and sharing even when times are lean and life is dry.  It was also a wonderful testament to the truth that living a generous life always yields deep peace and abundant joy. 

The Buddha taught:

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Today is a good day to light some candles.







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