Daisies, Saxophones and Generosity
Our 9-year old neighbour left a daisy chain on our doorstep yesterday with a note. It said: ‘Hope you are having a good quarantine’. Every Thursday night, this budding musician has helped to make our end of the street happy by playing her saxophone during the Thursday night clap for front-line workers. Our younger adult neighbours have been doing some shopping for us so that we don’t need to visit supermarkets. Other friends well short of the ‘vulnerable’ category, offer many kinds of help. We feel cherished – and fortunate!
We recognise that, in so many ways, we belong to a fortunate generation. Unlike our parents and grandparents, we have known only wars that did not touch us directly. We have benefited hugely from being the ‘boomer’ generation born in the idealistic years after the 2nd World War. We have enjoyed the security and pleasure of living in comfortable and warm homes - only a distant dream for our parents after the war. We enjoy better health. We live longer. We have benefited from huge developments in mass travel. We have visited parts of the world which our parents may have only seen on newsreels. We press buttons and make things happen which would have left our forebears open-mouthed in disbelief. In so many ways, our generation has been favoured! It’s easy to experience a kind of survivor’s guilt!
But there are more reasons for a different kind of guilt. Our generation has enjoyed much of this comfort at great cost to others and to our global environment. The growth of mass tourism is slowly destroying the very marvels that tourists most want to visit. Advantages in the market, particularly cheap food and clothes, have been enjoyed at the expense of people in economically disadvantaged countries. Cheap food via modern farming methods is destroying important habitats for so many different ecosystems. Only now with the benefit of blessed hindsight can we recognise that our generation has contributed to an alarming global environmental crisis.
David Attenborough wisely pointed out in a TV interview this week, COVID-19 may be giving us our best chance to rectify some of the mistakes of our greedy past. But while our generation needs to be aware of our contributions, guilt achieves very little and is a destructive motivator. The best way to acknowledge the favours which life has conferred on our generation is to respond not with guilt but with generosity.
Our response may be in thoughtful financial or other support to one of the groups negatively affected by the pandemic: refugees, rough sleepers, domestic violence victims, those in areas with poorly developed health services. It may be in trading with local businesses likely to lose their livelihoods because of the lockdown. It’s good to be generous with our money but there are other ways of being generous – time, attention, attitudes, volunteering of various kinds.
We have been categorised as ‘vulnerable’ during this pandemic for good reasons of public health. But it is perfectly possible for many of us in that category to be both vulnerable and thoughtfully pro-active.
We cannot repay our neighbours kindness during this lock-down but we can pass it on and do our best to multiply it. Maybe it's too soon to know what our generosity will look like. We can do obvious things like inviting them for a post-pandemic celebration. But we can be on the lookout for ideas – and there are plenty of people offering ideas - as to how to invest and offer our skills for the benefit of the future well-being of our planet for rising generations. That may involve an element of sacrifice. It may involve sharing our skills or material assets. It may simply be in taking time to encourage our aspiring young saxophonist to persist with her playing and believe in herself!