Two years ago, not knowing what we were getting into, Katya Andressen (Network for Good), Scott Case (Malaria No More, Startup America) and Ellen McGirt took a leap. We thought it might make sense to put my month-long Generosity Experiment out into the world, to give everyone a chance to practice being generous for a day.
And we thought Valentine's Day might be the perfect day to try it. None of us had any particular problem with Valentine's Day, but it felt like a holiday that had lost its way: too formulaic, too rote, everyone dreaded it a little bit.
The idea of Generosity Day was born, and it quickly took off, exploding on blogs, in Twitter, in online magazines everywhere, without a dollar behind it, just a few friends reaching out to friends to share an idea whose time had come.
Two years later, Generosity Day has become a global movement. We've seen a woman in London walking the streets giving out croissants to everyone, heard people speak frankly about what love really is and can be, and just yesterday, on Brene Brown's blog, learned the story of a woman near Sandy Hook, Conn., who responded to the fear of violence by tapping in to generosity:
I live in CT and I have a 3 and a 5 year old. While Sandy Hook hit everyone hard, it hit me in my most vulnerable of places ... the fear of losing my children. I was finding myself paralyzed by fear and waves of terror. I decided that the only way to battle this was to practice major acts of public love, to people I don't know. I bought coffee for the newspaper lady, paid for the few groceries an elderly lady with a fixed grocery budget was going to have to put back, gave $5 to the man who asked for spare change.
This woman goes on to share that one day in December she was in a MacDonald's with her daughter, eating ice cream, and decided to buy ice cream for everyone in the store. The manager was perplexed, but he finally got it, and in the end he only allowed her to pay $10. She ends the story, "When we got into the car to leave my daughter started laughing. When I asked what was making her laugh she said, 'Mommy, it was SO much fun to buy ice cream for people who we don't know their name.' That about sums it all up. Giving, when it is totally unexpected is pure joy!"
This is one of the thousands, maybe millions of stories that are underneath all the tweets and the blog posts and the Facebook likes of Generosity Day. Real stories of people finding strength through generosity, growth through generosity, maybe even healing through generosity.
To me, Generosity Day is as simple and profound as that: it's a chance to connect to a global community of people who are consciously choosing to bring generosity into their lives for a day, and a chance to experiment connecting to everyone around us in a new way.
My hope for this year's Generosity Day is that the word continues to spread far and wide, and that more and more people engage in real, generous action for a day. The team of Generosity Day volunteers has even created a beautiful series of badges to inspire action: just visit SpreadGenerosity.com and select your small act of generosity.
What I've seen in the since I started exploring generosity more deeply is that generosity lives in all of us, but too often it gets shouted down, argued away by our rational minds or just by fear. And yet we know in our hearts the beauty and power of generosity. We all remember when we've touched another person's life; we never forget the times others have lifted us up. These are beautiful, connected moments.
We need to create more space for generosity in our lives. We need to crack open a door that's been shut for too long.
That's why we need Generosity Day. On Generosity Day you have permission to dip your toe in the water of generosity for the first time; or if the urge strikes you, you can be absurdly kind, foolishly caring, outlandishly giving. It's easier because you'll know that millions of people are dancing the same dance with you, they are giving in to the small voice that wants to connect, that wants to give.
When millions of people embrace Generosity Day, something magical happens.
Change happens. Hope happens. Generosity happens, for all of us.
Follow Sasha Dichter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sashadichter