Living generously

American writer Bill Bryson describes emigrating with his family from England back to live in the States (New Hampshire), and having their furniture delayed in transit.

When word got round that our furniture was on a container ship…and that we were temporarily without anything to sleep on, sit on, or eat from, a stream of friendly strangers (many of whom I have not seen since) began traipsing up the walk with chairs, lamps, tables, even a microwave oven.

The welcome was stunning. 

…people received us as if the one thing that had kept them from total happiness to this point was the absence of us in their lives.  They brought us cakes and pies and bottles of wine.”  A neighbour invited the whole family for dinner, on the spur of the moment.

Bill Bryson, Notes From A Big Country (Black Swan, 1998)

What strikes me about his experience is the neighbourhood’s generosity.  The Bryson family were strangers, yet the community spread the word and helped make the family welcome and comfortable. 

This example is not about ‘giving’ in the general sense.  Nobody brought gift-wrapped ‘presents’ (that I’m aware of – but frankly it almost wouldn’t surprise me, such was the friendliness of these people).  A loan of used furniture and appliances might not seem like gifts in the usual sense, but were joyously received by the Bryson family.  As anyone would, if they didn’t have a stick of furniture.

I admire the warm generosity of this neighbourhood.  How people – often complete strangers – extended a helping hand, expecting nothing in return. 

That’s giving, all right.

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