Sunday, 6 November 2016

Generosity - In All Its Forms

12:18:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , 2 comments
When I was young it was unheard of to give teachers presents at Christmas, Easter or any other occasion.  However, I noticed, when I began teaching twenty five years ago, that it had become the habit for children to present their teachers with any number of elaborate and expensive gifts.  I still have a beautiful designer vase that I received from a family who I guess weren’t short of money.  It sits in my bathroom, and I think of the little girl who gave it to me every time I look at it.  The last I heard, she was engaged to a well-known footballer.  There were always lots of bottles of wine, flowers, chocolates, and the odd ornament, and, although I was very grateful, the ornaments usually got recycled fairly quickly.  I once opened a package to find two delicate bone china Burberry mugs.  As I held them up admiringly, the child said proudly, “Happy Christmas, Miss. My dad bought them for my mum, but she didn’t like them so she said she’d wrap them up for you.”

However, the one present that particularly sticks in my mind is the tiny package given to me by a rather scruffy six year old, who obviously came from a family struggling to survive.  She handed it to me proudly, then sat down on the carpet with the rest of the class, and fixed her eyes on me.  I opened it with some trepidation and a fixed smile on my face.  Inside was the smallest, dirtiest piece of soap I’ve ever seen.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had to wax lyrical about a multi-coloured squashed ball of soap, the size of a pea, but let me tell you, it’s hard to find words that convey one’s gratitude.  

The ritual was to open each present, hold it up for all to see, say something complimentary and then make it quite clear that I was happy with a present, a card or nothing at all (“hearing you wish me , ‘Happy Christmas,’ is the best present I could have…..”etc etc) 
“Lovely,” I heard myself say, to the sounds of infant sniggering, “did you make it yourself?”  The little girl nodded self-consciously. 

“Well,” I said decisively, “home made presents are the best of all.”  At this point I didn’t care whether I insulted the wine/chocolate/flower givers, who actually appeared oblivious, and were staring at the soap with a degree of puzzlement.  All I was bothered about was making that little girl feel special for gathering up the old slivers of soap from the plughole and moulding them into a colourful gift.  I was just grateful there were no pubic hairs or any other unwelcome human detritus on show.

Hers was an act of generosity that actually meant so much more than the snatched bunches of flowers or the recycled gift sets (no offence, parents).  It meant that this little girl, who had nothing, had obviously given some thought to a gift she could produce herself at no cost in terms of money, only time and ingenuity.  I’d like to tell you that this six year old grew up to appear on Dragon’s Den or the Apprentice, but the last I heard she was on the till at Tesco.

Generosity is a funny thing.  It’s not just to do with giving money or presents, more about a state of mind.  Some people are mean-minded, both in terms of gifts and in spirit, others are the opposite, generous in every way, regardless of wealth or lack of it.  This morning I asked my ten year old grandson what he thinks generosity means.  After a moment's thought he said, 'giving, kindness, sharing, smiles."  I don't think he was far wrong.  Some of the most generous people I've known have had the least in material terms.

Thirty odd years ago I was in a very bad way mentally, having suffered from severe Post Natal depression.  I had three young children and a husband with three jobs, doing his best to hold it all together.  I wasn’t coping very well, and my parents lived two hundred miles away.  One weekend they came to visit, and my mum told me she was staying on till I was feeling better, however long it took. Anybody who has ever suffered from depression (and needs their mum, at whatever age) will know the relief I felt as I heard this plan.  My mum was teaching at the time, had arranged unpaid leave and wasn’t going home till I could cope without her.  And this was after she’d driven up one weekend following a week teaching, driven back on the Sunday night, then turned round and driven straight back up after a desperate phone call from me.

Now that’s what I call selfless giving, kindness, generosity.  And something I will never forget.

In fact, my mum and dad are two of the most generous people I have ever met, frequently helping out children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren.  My dad has spend thousands over the years treating friends and family to meals and holidays, and tipping generously in restaurants, but woe betide anybody daring to ask him for a stamp.  As long as I can remember, dad has bought books of stamps, which are the most precious things he owns.  They live in his wallet, in his jacket pocket and are not to be touched.  If any one asked for one (in the days when we often sent letters instead of emails or texts) they would be subjected to a diatribe, the likes of which one wouldn’t want to hear more than once.  Similarly, the use of the landline (our only other means of communication in the 1960s) was closely monitored, with dad making frequent sighing visits into the hall to check whether I was still chatting.  I always thought it strange that someone so generous would worry about a few pence, but now I'm guessing it's more to do with living through the war years, when everything had to be scrimped and saved for, and every penny was precious. Long live dad's generosity!

Although I see myself as a pretty generous person, I’ve noticed more and more, recently,
that my books of stamps are being hidden in the depths of my purse, and woe betide anyone who has the audacity to ask for one……..




Can't Buy Me Love 

by the Beatles   (my sentiments entirely)

Can't buy me love, love
Can't buy me love
I'll buy you a diamond ring my friend
If it makes you feel all right
I'll get you anything my friend
If it makes you feel all right
'Cause I don't care too much for money
For money can't buy me love
I'll give you all I've got to give
If you say you love me too
I may not have a lot to give
But what I've got I'll give to you
I don't care too much for money
For money can't buy me love
Can't buy me love
Everybody tells me so
Can't buy me love
No no no, no
Say you don't need no diamond rings
And I'll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of things
That money just can't buy
I don't care too much for money
Money can't buy me love
Can't buy me love
Everybody tells me so
Can't buy me love
No no no, no
Say you don't need no diamond rings
And I'll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of things
That money just can't buy
I don't care too much for money
Money can't buy me love
Can't buy me love, love
Can't buy me love, oh

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2 comments:

Steve Rowland said...

Great blog, Jill. Thank you. (Song's not bad either.)

Twigger said...

Love it, Jill.