Hi there! I’m in West L.A. with my dear friend Emerson Boergadine and we’re talking about generosity. Why you ask? Because Emerson is the most generous person I know and I think you should know him too.
WHAT DOES GENEROSITY MEAN TO YOU?
Oh man! (Laughs) I knew you were going to ask me a question like that! I was trying to think of answers last night.
NO! THEN YOU WOULDN’T BE FREE AND NATURAL. YOU CAN GIVE ME ANYTHING. LIKE A VISUAL. ANYTHING.
Ok, I think I’ve got a visual for you. I ordered pizza yesterday ‘cuz I was feeling lazy and editing photos. I didn’t want to get up and go anywhere because I was just in my zone. So, I went to go grab my tip and I was looking for some cash. And I pulled out a couple dollars and I was like, hmmm. Then I remembered a story I heard about ‘Abdu’l-Baha. There are numerous stories out there about ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s generosity. He happened to be a very generous tipper. Everywhere he went he was a generous tipper.
So I started pulling out the dollars and I thought, two dollars is good. Nah! Let’s just do three. If I gave four dollars the guy would probably be a lot happier. Maybe four is not enough? I went with four. For me it was just an extra two dollars but for this guy it was two dollars vs. four dollars. It probably made his delivery a little more worthwhile. And it was just something I was inspired to do after reflecting on that story. It’s just giving a little more than you normally would, when it’s not that big of a difference.
DO YOU CONSIDER THE ACT GENEROUS WHEN ITS NOT A SACRIFICE? DOES THE SACRIFICIAL ELEMENT HAVE TO BE PRESENT IN ORDER FOR IT TO BE CONSIDERED GENEROUS?
I don’t think it has to be a sacrifice. A lot of wealthy people can be generous with their money and it may not be a sacrifice for them. We need affluent people. We need people to be generous everywhere, especially in third-world countries.
I spent a year in Tonga doing service and we had one affluent family in the town I was in. They weren’t super wealthy, they just had a small business that did very well. But it enabled them to give to the community and be very generous with their money. One of the smaller islands needed a bathroom at the Baha’i community center and this family was able to help build that bathroom. It wasn’t a sacrifice. I mean, I don’t think their generosity hurt them.
I remember my coordinator Sina Mossayeb was talking about sacrifice once during a workshop retreat. He asked us, “What does sacrifice mean to you?” We all went around the room and talked about it and then he shared the root of the word and it actually made a lot of sense. Sacrifice means to make something sacred. It doesn’t have to hurt you to give. You’re just taking something and making it sacred when you give.
I LIKE THAT. WHAT IF YOU’RE NOT WEALTHY? HOW CAN SOMEONE SHOW GENEROSITY WHEN THEY DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY TO SPARE?
I think it’s a state of mind. It’s about shifting your focus to the external, focusing outward. When you change your focus, then generosity naturally comes out because you’re not thinking about yourself. You’re being selfless as opposed to being selfish. Generosity comes as an aspect of being selfless, or trying to be selfless.
WHAT ARE DIFFERENT WAYS THAT PEOPLE CAN BE GENEROUS?
By giving! My dad’s an amazing example of being generous. I actually have a really cool story. When we were kids, he’d always tell us if I had sixty heartbeats, twenty would be for you and twenty for each of your brothers. He never left over any for himself! (Laughs)
AW. THAT’S SO SWEET.
He lived for us and that to me is a big sacrifice. It’s about as generous as you can get. And even now that we’re all in our 30s, if we need financial help or anything, he’s there for us. It’s not just with his money. He’s not rich by any means. But my brother needs a new car right now, so he helps him with some money. And he won’t ever just give one of us money. He wants us all to feel equally loved. So if one of my brothers needs a little help with rent one month, he gives us all the same amount of money. That to me is generous. He doesn’t have a lot but he equally loves us all.
HE’S VERY JUST.
He’s very just. He’s always been like that with everything for us. He’s been a great example.
YOU LEARNED GENEROSITY FROM YOUR DAD?
The heartbeat story stuck out a lot. He was constantly thinking of us. Whenever we needed anything. He’s even generous with his words. He sent me an email last week after a Skype conversation entitled “The Presence of Amos.” Like the cookies from “Famous Amos.” He spent the time to think about me and what we talked about and wrote an entire email telling me how I have this presence and how to tap into my presence and when it comes out. He spent all that time to write to me. He was generous with his words and his time. His thoughts were with me.
It’s not just how much can I be generous with my money, it’s also how much time can I dedicate to this person. It’s so much more than just how much can I give of my material wealth. It’s how much I can give of my time or my thoughts.
IF WE WERE TO BREAK DOWN STEPS OR TIPS FOR SOMEONE WHO’S WORKING ON THE VIRTUE OF GENEROSITY, WHAT ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS YOU CAN MAKE TO HELP THEM BE AWARE OF OPPORTUNITIES TO BE MORE GENEROUS?
I’d suggest focusing your thoughts outward. Practice selflessness. Andy Grammer does something that I love. If we’re at the grocery checkout counter, he’s generous with his time and his smile. He does the smallest things that show people how present he is. He actually stops and has a conversation with the cashier. Not a long one. Not one that will piss off the people behind us, but he smiles and acknowledges the person for more than being a cashier at a grocery store. He has genuine interactions. It’s those little things that I notice in a lot of my friends. They do things that bring smiles to the faces of strangers.
I think that’s a really nice first step. That’s the one I’m working on. Andy’s a good example of that. That’s how I want to be. Present.
PRESENT FOR OTHERS?
Yeah. I like that. Present for others.
HOW DO YOU PRACTICE GENEROSITY WITH YOUR FRIENDS?
I like doing this one thing. When I see the perfect gift for someone, I buy it. I love it! I found lavender honey the other day and I know my friend loves lavender. And their birthday happens to be coming up! If you see that perfect little thing to get for your friend, it’s like, why not?
With your friends it’s easy to give. Give your time if you can’t give money. It’s easy to give your time.
IS THERE A VIRTUE RIGHT NOW THAT YOU’RE WORKING ON? ONE WHERE YOU’RE LIKE “WOW, I WISH I COULD INCORPORATE MORE OF THAT IN MY LIFE?”
Yes. Love. By that I mean universal love. ‘Abdu’l-Baha talks about universal love, one where you are the essence of love. You’re in a state of love.
I took this three-day Hindu meditation course once on all different styles of meditation and how to open up your chakras. We talked about the specific chakra that opens you up to love and learned about the meaning of love. You can’t just love one person individually. It’s not about romance or being in love, it’s about getting to that place where you’re in a constant state of love. That’s what unconditional love is.
When you’re in a state of love, anyone you interact with feels that, like the story of Andy Grammer at the grocery store. You simply exist in love. That’s where I want to be.
WHAT IS YOUR WISH FOR HUMANITY?
(With a deep sigh and a warm smile) To learn how to love. It’s my wish for myself. To love unconditionally.