"So let me get this straight. You spend the weekend floating down a river, looking for trash. Do I have that right?"
I had the good pleasure of talking with an old friend, recently, who was both fascinated and dumbfounded by our project. (He was too polite to call me crazy, but the tone of his voice sufficiently made the indictment.) He was curious about the steps involved as we locate, photograph, geo-tag, and then make plans to extract debris along a river.
"Wow… you have a huge investment in tools and time for this project. It’s really very generous,” he said.
His compliment led to a very good conversation about the nature of generosity, and the generosity of nature. I won the debate on these two points:
1. Generosity is not demonstrated when we give away a thing for which we have no further use.
When other of life’s demands allow it, I greatly enjoy spending time on the river. I can think of few better ways to indulge a few spare hours. In other words, I had no better use for that time, at that moment.
2. An act of true charity occurs when a person identifies and satisfies a need that is not his own, and in doing so, gives something of himself or his possessions… even when doing so might cause him sacrifice or inconvenience.
My river restoration work is not entirely unselfish. Yes, it will be a better place for others when we are done. But it will also be a better place for Julie and I to enjoy, or for our kids and grandkids; those people we call “our own.” And as I confessed earlier, spending time on the water is hardly a sacrifice.
Besides, I’ve done no more for the river than it has done for me.
© 2009 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.