The word for generosity in modern Greek is “gennaiodoria.” I recently made the trip of a lifetime to Greece. On our second day in Athens a shop owner offered my husband and me glasses of homemade spirits and a language lesson. He told us that “gennaiodoria” literally means “bravery of giving.” Generosity entails a life of vulnerable courage. We saw that courage everywhere in Greece, and particularly on the rugged and impoverished island where we spent the bulk of our time and met the folks who live on the terraced mountainsides, raising goats, building cooperative bakeries, foraging and farming and bringing strangers like us into their homes — serving us sweet, thick coffee and urging us to take bags of lemons, bunches of sage and fennel, bottles of home-pressed olive oil and wine.
Contrast this bravery of community and mutuality with the Amazon Prime, one-click world so many of us inhabit. How often I expend my resources without even noticing this huge world of which I am a part —this huge world built through the mutuality of exchange. Instead, it’s all about me. One click, and what I want becomes mine. I forget the ground upon which I’m standing. I forget the ground upon which we all are standing.
Giving to the Temple — whether I donate money, time or talent — reminds me of the bravery of giving. The work of my body, my heart, and my mind joins with your work, and yours, and yours, and together we build a world. We build love. We build community. And so, over the past few years I’ve found myself giving more to the Temple than I thought I had to give. Literally, I’ve found myself giving more and more money — feeling certain that money reflects my energies, and my energies should embody my priorities. My world is seriously off-kilter if AT&T and Comcast get more of Myobun than Buddha Eye does. But I’ve also simply found myself exploring the edges of my heart. The practice of generosity invites me to risk myself on behalf of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. It invites me to give, and thus to live, without fear.