When Generous Is Normal

I just ended a conference call with a group of artists who keep each other accountable on life and current projects. As always–relationship brings perspective, critical feedback, and inspiration as people share their own stories. One such story that stuck out was a gal from Minnesota who off handedly mentioned that in their many years of marriage they had only 6 months without someone (who was not family) living with them. This may seem severe to many–an act of Mother Thereasa-esque kindness and strength. But the way she talked about it, this was simply a part of life–which is true of anything that you do for long enough.

Another friend of mine is a pastor who lives stories like these regularly–they have become a part of who he is. So while some preachers like to share their glory stories from ten years ago in a sermon, when my friend shares a story about this last week I know there are twenty more he isn't telling. To him it isn't remarkable. He is simply talking about his life.

We like to tape our mouths shut about some generous action–lest we be perceived as braggarts. But what if we saw our hesitation to share as a sign that our severe moments of generosity were aberrations in an otherwise selfish life and community? The fact that we think it's something too significant to talk about only reveals that it's out of pace with normal.

Also, when we don't share we are robbing the world of the food that it's imagination needs. Stories plant seeds in our minds that grow into the actions of those that cultivate it. I wouldn't have driven coast to coast with a friend after college if I hadn't first heard other road trip stories; I wouldn't have started writing if I hadn't been romanced nearly 10 years ago by Donald Miller's writing voice in Blue Like Jazz; and we definitely wouldn't have had someone live in our front room for nearly a year had we not heard stories of people 2000 years ago sharing all their resources because everything they had belonged to their Messiah anyway.

I'll let you decide whether that's a brag, just sharing normal life, or maybe both. But I'm becoming less interested in trying to sort that all out in public. Meanwhile I'm becoming more interested in doing what creatives do best–observing what is and presenting it without hacking off it's rotting parts or sanding off all it's rough edges beforehand. Because you never know what stories of success or failure might plant a future action in someone's grey matter.