Tag Archives: generosity

Giving Away Coats

There came a point in my relationship with life’s physicality when I realized that I did not “own” anything. The over-arching, all-encompassing nature of Grace was so complete that it became very clear to me that everything actually belongs to the Divine.

With this realization, I was reminded of a story, which I had encountered early in my spiritual reading. The story is about a Parisian Rabbi of tremendous reputation, who lived in a small garret apartment—a single room—immediately under the rooftop of a tall building amid the early-morning haze of the City of Lights.


In this tale, a senior rabbinical student travels with the desire to consult with this Rabbi on a very pressing scriptural matter. After a journey of many days , the student reaches the top floor of the building where the Rabbi lives. Approaching the large wooden door of the Rabbi’s apartment, the travel-weary student gives the door a stout knock. The Rabbi himself opens the door.

Upon entering, the student looks about to see a stack of twenty books on a small wooden desk, a few writing tools with some paper, a solo chair before the desk and a single bed in the corner of the room. To this, the student exclaims in amazement, “Where are all of your things?”

Shrugging his shoulders indifferently, the Rabbi responds, “I do not maintain a great number of personal possessions. You see, I am just travelling through.”

We are all, in essence,  merely travelling through.

Yet, in travelling through this life, one of the most sacred activities in which we can engage is the redistribution and gifting of goods to those in need. And, although—at first—this process may seem unsettling, unfamiliar or even a bit frightening, there is no greater feeling than the lightness that comes with sharing.


At a Toastmaster’s meeting one night, before the gathering’s formal opening, I overhear a member from India describing how some people in Phoenix, Arizona spray their large citrus trees to keep them from producing fruit. With the pitch and volume of his voice rising, he emphatically announces his closing questions and statements to the group.


“How can people do this—so selfishly? Keep a fruit tree from bearing its fruit? It is unnatural. Don’t they realize the number of people who are literally starving in the world—in Phoenix even? These trees are meant to bear fruit not to be grown as mere decorations. People should be collecting this fruit and donating it to food shelters!”

“The luxury of excess,” I think to myself, while remembering with gratitude the number of bulging bags of fresh lemons I have received recently as gifts.

One of my adult, yoga students has a sister living in Phoenix, who is periodically overwhelmed by the sheer volume of fruit her citrus trees produce. Yet, this Phoenix-based woman finds a way to distribute the bounty from her trees among grateful family members and friends, who—when they feel overwhelmed—expand the circle of generosity to include an even broader group of grateful people, some of whom live several hours away.

“Excess” is meant to be cultivated, and then it is meant to be shared liberally and freely. When “too much” is redistributed generously, it becomes “bounty” which is a wonderful circumstance indeed.