On Generosity

Yesterday was a good day. A friend who I haven’t seen in ten years gave me focused feedback on a document that I’ve been working on. And a stranger whom I’ve never met shared her expert insights into a problem that I’m exploring. My waking thought this morning was gratefulness for their generosity.

A few years back I prototyped and tested a card game called Generosity. In the game, players were assigned roles in a community like “car mechanic” or “vegetable farmer.” With each role, each player had value that they could offer and needs that they could ask for help with. The main game mechanic was bartering. But the most interesting part of the game was the conversation that emerged about motivation and rewards and valuing one’s value and how hard it is to ask for help. (See “Testing Generosity” for more on this).

I was developing this game around the same time that Cards Against Humanity came on the scene. Guess what? Cards Against Humanity is much more fun to play than Generosity. Cards is a snarky game and snark is safe and it makes us feel clever. Generosity, at least in game form, is a tough thing to sell.

But while some things don’t lend themselves to fun games or tweets or instagram, they are still rich and worth pursuing. Generosity is one of those things. When you’re on the receiving end of it, it’s almost hard to believe how giving people can be. And when you are giving it, that’s a great feeling too. Feeling useful and helpful and generous. Life can be tough. And generosity makes it easier. What a powerful thing to be able to do.