This post originally appeared on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook page. Read the original here.
Dear Ones —
I am blessed. I am over-blessed. I am beyond blessed. There are not enough fingers in the world upon which I could count my blessings. If you ever hear me complaining about anything in my life (ANYTHING at all) please fucking slap me.
Even before I was lucky enough to become financially successful, I was already over-blessed by life. Just the mere fact that I was born physically healthy is already enough to put me high on the global scale of LUCKY. To have grown up safe in a world of danger is another outrageous stroke of luck. But if you add to that all the love and friendship that I have known, and the education I was allowed to receive, and my political freedom, and the creativity I have been allowed to explore…well, like I said: over-blessed.
And so I try to give back.
I know that a lot of us try to give back, in so many ways.
Giving is a practice — an exercise of the soul — that can only be made stronger by more giving.
I remember once I commented to somebody how impressed I was with Oprah Winfrey's extraordinary generosity, and the person scoffed, and said, "Well, I could be generous, too, if I was a billionaire!"
That was a person who did not understand the meaning of the word "generous".
Generosity is a state of being. It is question of your spirit, not a question of your bank account. You're either a generous person, or you aren't. Some of the most generous people I've ever met were incredibly poor (at least financially — not in spirit.) Some of the richest people I've ever met were not generous in the least — in fact, they clutch to their resources in constant terror of scarcity.
I wanted to say to that person: "If you're waiting to become a billionaire before you become generous, I think you're missing the point."
But it's tricky, isn't it? I mean — it's hard to know where to put your generosity. The needs of the world are bottomless, and our resources are not bottomless, so sometimes it seems overwhelming. To give to one is not to give to another, and this can be heartbreaking.
Also, of course, you are almost certain to be criticized for how you give, or to whom — because the critics who walk among us are always so difficult to please. When Oprah started a school in Africa, she was attacked for not helping out closer to home. On the other hand, when Mark Zuckerberg tried to bail out the troubled school system of Newark, NJ, he was critifized for not thinking more globally. Even as Bill Gates is trying to find a cure for the worldwide Malaria epidemic, he is criticized for not helping the homeless of Seattle. When a woman in my own hometown started a club this year to help local teenage girls face down the problem of low self-esteem, she was criticized for not also helping boys.