Generosity Dinners Peacemeal Creativity

Generosity Dinners, USA

About Generosity Dinners

Generosity dinners is an idea started by Common Change, an organisation based in California, USA. These dinners are gatherings of friends or community members over a meal. Guests contribute financially to a group pot and provide gifts with no strings attached to people, projects, or organizations they care about.

The story below demonstrates how the Generosity Dinner can transform people’s lives and relationships. It comes from Austin, Texas – see the Generosity Dinners Austin Facebook page for more information.

On Family, Generosity and Vulnerability: a personal story

As I sat at the generosity dinner on a Tuesday night in November, I reflected on the people I knew who might benefit from a financial gift from my community. I thought critically about my friends and co-workers, trying to decipher recent conversations to determine if any of them had hinted at needing some extra cash to pay medical bills, not knowing where they would get the money.

As I contemplated, one person kept coming to mind: my sister. She is a single mother with an adorable son. She’s an incredibly resilient and determined person. And I’d like to think I share some of her qualities. But there’s one way we are not similar in the least, and that’s sharing our emotions.

I’m an open book – I share nearly everything with my family and friends. But my sister is much more hesitant to share with those around her. So, I was very surprised to be visiting her and my nephew a few months ago, when she divulged that she felt overwhelmed with the task of keeping the household running.

Her to-do list included repairing their fence, purchasing and installing a new dishwasher and repairing the lawnmower. As she rattled the list off, I was a bit shocked, and I wasn’t sure how to respond. It was so unlike my sister to be open about this kind of thing that I didn’t even recognize the opportunity to help her.

Generosity Dinners Peacemeal Creativity

It’s a weird thing when you realise your family is in need. Here was this person whom I love and care about, but it had taken me so long to see that they could use a helping hand. All this time I’d been “trying to find someone” for my community to honour and bless in whatever way we can.

My sister and I had never created a place where we could be open and honest with each other about the struggles we are facing. Like so many other relationships, we unconsciously made a mutual contract to never explore those places of perceived weaknesses, fears, or vulnerability.

The unspoken agreement to never discuss money is so prevalent in our society that it seems vulgar to divulge things like your rent payments, student loan amount, or salary. We hide our needs and struggles, then feel ashamed when we do need financial help – even though we may be part of a community that is willing to lift us up in support.

At the generosity dinner that night, I mentioned that my sister could use a financial gift to help pay for the ever-growing list of repairs and replacements needed around her home. My community voted and decided to help fund her.

I was so grateful that my friends wanted to help me support my sister – but I was nervous about how she would take the news, because we hadn’t openly discussed her needs before. Would she feel like I was disloyal by telling others of her situation? Would she be upset because it felt like I didn’t think she was strong enough to do it on her own?

I wanted her to see that this was done out of love for her and my nephew. That it wasn’t charity and it wasn’t pity, but it was our way of being generous. It was my way of helping her the best that I knew how.

I told my sister over the phone and she cried. There are very few times I can recall my sister crying. It touched me in a way that I hadn’t imagined it would and showed me a side of my sister I don’t think I’ve ever seen. She thanked me and she thanked the community.

But honestly, I am thankful to her. I am thankful she broke through that unspoken agreement that we couldn’t be vulnerable with each other.

Thanks to Wendi Wilkes for this story. All pictures taken from the Generosity Dinners: Austin Facebook page.

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