A few years ago I wrecked my dad’s truck. In the Target parking lot. I wrecked into a parked car. I pulled through a spot, turned left, and somehow- in a stroke of mind-boggling science- I hit the car to my right and jacked it up into the air. Straight up into the air, with my truck pinned underneath its driver-side hood. Kids and old ladies gasped and everyone else was looking at me, smirking, as if I was the most stupid girl they had ever seen in real-life-action. Who hits a parked car? Seriously Jenny?
I called my dad crying.
And he replied the same way he has my entire life. “Are you hurt? Are you OK?”
And I replied the same way I have my entire life. “I’m fine. I just _____.”
Wrecked your truck. Caught the microwave on fire. Spilled nail polish all over the carpet. Broke all the glasses in the top of the dishwasher. Burned a hole in the carpet with my curling iron. Locked myself out of the house. Out of the car. With Annie inside.
You know- the normal issues a girl like me has.
And dad always responds the same. No matter what I throw at him. “Are you hurt? Are you OK?”
I tell him I am fine. And then he always, always says, “OK. Well that other stuff is just stuff. As long as you are OK. That’s all I care about.”
And the thing is- he means it.
He cares more about me, my mom and my sisters than about the carpet or his truck or any of his belongings. And he has always made sure in the midst of our tears and panic- that we KNOW- besides us, to him, everything else is just stuff.
My dad is, without question, the most generous man I know. And not just with his money- though he is insanely generous with his money. He is generous with his affection. He is generous with his forgiveness. He is generous with his time. And he is generous with his grace.
Back to that pesky fire I talked about yesterday.
People were insanely generous with us. We showed up to our next few concerts and people gifted us with clothes, jackets, diapers, suitcases and even guitars. I remember getting a call from a DJ at KLOVE radio who said that someone in Oklahoma had heard about our RV exploding and burning to the ground and had an RV they wanted to offer us to use for as long as we needed it. After some conversations with them- we sent our driver out there to pick it up.
He called Ryan and I and said, “We can’t take this R.V.”
We said, “Why not?”
He said, “It’s too nice. It’s brand new. There’s like- plastic still covering the chairs up and stuff.”
We told the couple that we had had our van and trailer stolen twice that year. Followed by a fire which burned our last RV down to the ground. We told them we were bad luck. We told them we were traveling with at least seven people and a toddler. We told them we would be driving it from California to South Dakota to New Jersey. We told them, there was a chance the thing would come back broken, scratched, with thousands of miles on it.
We told them: you don’t even know us.
They told us: take it.
Them. A young couple. With young kids. With a lot to lose by giving us their RV. This was their investment into their family’s vacations for the next ten, fifteen years. This held incredible value. And they said take it.
And here’s what I’ve learned about generous people from my dad and from this couple in Oklahoma and from so many others:
Generous people like people more than they like stuff.
A lot of them like their stuff too. Like houses and cars and art and good wine and nice clothes and memorable vacations. But at the end of the day- if it comes down to honoring one thing over another- they make it very clear that people trump, say, animals or cars or carpet.
Without flinching, generous people value human beings more than stuff. Generous people are lovers of people. They realize the value of their belongings pale in comparison to the value of the human being standing before them. Grace trumps glares. People trump possessions. And everything they own finds its value, not in monetary currency, but in the way those things allow for love, grace and open-handed generosity to flourish in the people around them.