From the Journals, November 1995: Generosity

(Guaitil, Cost Rica.)

I have seen and known the generous heart of the Earth and I keep praying to God to give me a generous heart.  I find that, at least comparatively,  my culture is not one of generosity, but of stinginess and fear.  Stinginess and generosity are fear and love dressed in other clothes.  And perfect love drives out fear, they say.   If I keep more than what I can use, it is because I fear I may need it later.

Today I went to Santa Cruz and when I finished my mandados, I started walking home.  I got almost to the Cooperativa when the same guy who picked me up the last time picked me up again.  He risked a 20,000 colone fine for taking me on his motorcycle without a helmet.  As we flew back I thought about Generosity – him taking me and even risking a fine.  And in this country, you can count on Generosity.

I thought about the generosity of the Earth that we barely see in North America.  Here, the lemons and oranges and papayas fall from the trees.  Cows give their milk and one tiny kernel of corn gives 2 or 3 elotes.  It requires work, but work to gather what is being freely given.  The 20th century thinks that milk, corn, wood, water, fruits have to be extracted from the earth, and extract them we do.  In quantities immeasurable.  We don’t receive them; we demand them.

But the truth is that the mango tree, if you leave it alone, has a generous heart and the hen and the cow, too.  The mango will make you more mangos than you can eat and the hen will leave you eggs whether you ask her to or not.  The calf will share the milk of the cow.  Irma will bring choreadas and Maria Elena will give arroz con pollo when there is extra and the river always gives Renan fish to bring home for us to fry.  The nature of Earth, when it is left untormented, is Generosity.  I guess the orange tree doesn’t worry about the other 10 months when it has nothing to offer but shade – it gives what it can.

Slowly, I am reading the gospel of Luke and, I think, understanding some things.  Jesus wanted to be a teacher, but he had the same generous heart and couldn’t turn people away.  That’s what got him.  That’s why the Pharisees became interested in him and felt threatened by him – he couldn’t turn the sick away.

I have thriftiness ground into my being so deeply that generosity is hard for me.  The open-hearted generosity of Martina who bought me fried chicken when her money was running out is not in my culture or my habits.  I would not have done that.  She called me over and invited me.  She could have just as easily let me walk right by.  That is the ridiculous generosity that amazes and shames me and demonstrates to me a life that is truly without fear.

I guess believing in the generosity of others helps to eliminate fear.  Hmm.   I came home from Santa Cruz and cleaned the entire house.  Generosity in favors is part of my culture, even if generosity with money is hard for me.

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