Essay by Luke Foster
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
In late 2000 aged 29 I took my first adult trip abroad to Southern India and landed in Chennai formerly known as Madras. While catching an auto rickshaw to the Salvation Army Backpackers I was stunned firstly by all the smells and most of all by barefoot homeless children and for the first two nights cried myself to sleep literally as I was shocked and traumatised by the poverty.
A couple of days later I bought a $25 Indian bicycle and scooted all around Chennai and started buying toys and racing up to shanty settlements near the train station and gave out children toys then rode off at breakneck speed through the hectic traffic and had a smile on my face.
I gave a talk at the art school and donated a little money for a pot of curry and provided drawing paper and textas for around 100 street children in the slums of Chennai.
This was the beginning of something in my life that I have repeated for the decades since, a sort of on again off again performance art piece. In 2014 I was living with my parents and working two days a week doing garden maintenance, however I suddenly became quite unwell mentally and started writing essays about social issues with a comedic twist and stopped working for around six months.
I came up with a performance art idea extending on what I did in India where I filled a big Kathmandu backpack that I bought at Robina shopping centre and filled it with second hand and new clothes, food, a sleeping bag and other essentials that a homeless person would need then I took it to my former work place and left it with a note at the adjacent church who gave out cheap food for homeless and those living on a shoestring.
I got a shirt printed with a self-portrait and the text We Care About You Deeply on it and wore it while heaving the big Kathmandu backpack and another smaller backpack on the bus. Then a few weeks later I did the same thing again but this time for a homeless woman. I spent about $1000 on each.
Since then, I have done similar things in Sydney where I asked three homeless people what shoes they wanted and then took them to Foot Locker and asked what sneakers they wanted me to buy them. I also bought them food and drinks.
After Sydney I flew out to New York and stayed in a hostel in Brooklyn and would buy the homeless food, clothes and give them cash and it left me feeling great even though during all these times I was quite unwell mentally. However, I never told my mum as she would have been furious about me giving so much stuff away after me saving for a decade to buy my own apartment. Mum had only charged me a pittance so I could save up for my own place.
“Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.” Dennis Prager
Dennis Prager is an American conservative talk show host aged 75 and I just discovered him when I Googled generosity quotes.
And it wouldn’t be one of my essays if I didn’t have a Dalai Lama quote.
“Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness.”
Sometimes I buy the homeless snacks and drinks in my tiny beach side neighbourhood but its when I go to Sydney that I am the most generous towards homeless people and usually bring a bag of clothes and the first thing I do on arrival is find the most needy, homeless person and give it to them then buy them a meal.
As I usually say I try to have equal number of male and female role models.
“True generosity is an offering; given freely and out of pure love. No strings attached. No expectations. Time and love are the most valuable possession you can share.”
Susan Lynn “Suze” Orman is an American financial advisor, author, and podcast host.
Ellen DeGeneres is one of the most generous people on the planet but not just to the homeless.
“In the lead up to her award, the show gave a brief rundown of the individual causes she’s supported. She’s raised $12.5 million for breast cancer research, $10 million for survivors of Hurricane Katrina; she’s given $1.7 million to schools, $21.6 to charity, and $35 million to her own viewers in need.” Google
The third strong generous woman quote I found is this one:
“Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as well do it with generosity and kindness and style.”
“Rebecca Solnit (born 1961) is an American writer. She has written on a variety of subjects, including feminism, the environment, politics, place, and art.”
In conclusion I feel my positive emotion strengths are generosity and humour and my weaknesses are anxiety, jealousy and regret. However, when I use humour and generosity particularly towards the most vulnerable members of society then it helps with my negative emotions. It unleashes me from the prison of negative emotions.