A Los Angeles man decided to move back in with his parents to allow total strangers – a homeless woman and her four children – to live in his house for a year, fully furnished and all expenses paid. The man, named Tony Tolbert, said he learned generosity from his parents; while he was growing up, they repeatedly offered the spare room in their home to people who needed a roof over their head.
The funny thing about generosity is that it can be much more valuable for the person being generous than the recipient.
Reading about Mr. Tolbert made me think of something I did this week that could be considered an act of generosity, the outcome of which still hadn’t been revealed at that point.
Whenever our garage starts getting too crowded, I advertise all my “trash” on Craigslist so it can become someone else’s treasure. I recently posted the double jogging stroller I bought when my kids were toddlers. A man with a Texas area code — I live in Orlando — called about it. After a phone conversation and several text messages regarding specs, my address and what not, the man agreed to buy it.
He came over accompanied by his 10-year-old daughter and explained that he and his family were in town for the week to visit Disney World. They needed the stroller for their two young boys and decided to look on Craigslist because stroller rentals at Disney World cost an arm and a leg. They had no intentions of taking it back to Texas with them.
My first thought was to tell him to use it and bring it back afterwards, but I didn’t say anything because my second thought was that I could really use the extra cash. I went back inside, but I felt quite guilty for not just offering to lend it to him. I called him and it turns out he was still in front of my house. At first he refused to take the money back, but after a short exchange, he agreed. The only thing I asked of him was to please bring it back and he said he would.
A friend advised me to not lose my faith in humanity if I never heard from him again. She hit the nail on the head: in my eyes, what I did wasn’t so much an act of generosity as it was an act of faith. The stroller had been sitting unused in my garage for years, so it really wasn’t a big deal, but trusting that he would return it was. And early this morning, he did.
I am grateful to the man from Texas for what he did for me, reminding me that there are many decent people out there who won’t take advantage of the good intentions of others. As Tony Tolbert said, you don’t have to be Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Oprah to show generosity. Doing something for someone else, no matter how simple, is one of the best feelings in the world, especially if what you receive in return is a much greater gift.