Generosity = Attention


In the course of my scholarly pursuits, I came across this Simone Weil quote on Pinterest. {How many of you have found yourself on Pinterest for scholarly pursuits? Recipes, D.I.Y. projects, design or fashion inspiration? It may not be collegiate, but I maintain it’s a scholarly pursuit. :-)} I’d love to say something cool, like I was reading one of Weil’s philosophical works and came upon this gem, but ALAS, it was a midnight rambling through my Pinterest feed. However, how I found it does not change the fact that her words are TRUE.

In my personal writing, whether journaling, composing scenes for my novel, or sketching out characters for upcoming works, I often find myself circling back to Generosity. To me, generosity is a big deal. 

Yes, I love to give gifts, especially when I know I have found one perfect for the recipient. However, too often generosity gets boxed and labeled in only one mode of expression.

The truth is that the depths of what generosity is are fathomless. You can never deplete generosity. It cannot run out. The idiom is perhaps hackneyed, but the more you give, the more you receive. If you limit the concept of generosity to the monetary or materialistic, you severely curtail your dividends. 

What affects me the most about Simone Weil’s statement is that she succinctly defines an act of generosity that most people would never consider to be one. However, its truth is unrivaled. 

For example, the other day I was watching A Football Life with my brother. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show {like me before my brother introduced me to it}, A Football Life is a biopic, in essence; each show takes a look at the the life, achievements, and contributions a player or coach has had on the game of football. I enjoy watching these because they humanize the game for me. I would go so far to say that because of this show, I now love football. {Words I never thought I’d utter.}

Anyway. I digress.

The other day, I watched Part One of the Vincent Lombardi story. Vincent Lombardi is a cornerstone in the evolution of American football. He revolutionized and revitalized the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s.

While watching, one part particularly caught my attention.

When Vincent Lombardi moved from N.Y.C. to coach in Green Bay, W.I., he had worked diligently to establish his career in coaching. Starting as a football coach at St. Cecelia’s High School in Englewood, N.J., he worked his way through assistant coaching at Fordham then onto West Point and finally assistant coaching for the N.Y. Giants. In practice, whether with students or pro-players, he maintained the same environment- rigorous drills and strict discipline, both mentally and physically. 

Arriving as head coach in Green Bay, Lombardi was faced with the dregs of the N.F.L. Green Bay was dead last on the roster with little hope of a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Through discipline and hard work, demanding 150% of his players in practice and on the field, Lombardi coached the team to a 7 and 5 record his first season {their first winning season in over a decade}.

However, Lombardi did not accomplish this by cracking the whip. Yes, he required adherence to his vision and his instruction, but there was one attribute he possessed that made him the revered leader he is today. He paid attention. 

During one practice, the quarterback, Bart Starr, threw an interception. Lombardi chewed him out in front of the entire team. Later, Starr went to Lombardi’s office and told him that he did not care if Lombardi chewed him out, especially if he deserved it, but, as the QB, Starr was supposed to be the leader of the team. He told Lombardi that it undermined his leadership when the coach chewed him out so severely in front of everyone. Then Starr requested that if Lombardi wanted to chew him out, the he do it in his office, in private. 

Lombardi did not get offended. He didn’t let insecurity cloud his judgement. No. He listened and attended to Bart Starr’s request. Never again did he chew Starr out in public. Under Lombardi’s leadership, Bart Starr led his team to two N.F.L. championship games (pre-inception of the Super Bowl) as well as the first two Super Bowls ever played in N.F.L. history. Starr was voted to the N.F.L. Pro-Bowl four times and deemed Super Bowl M.V.P. by the league in 1966 and 1967. Furthermore, the N.F.L. has an award named after him. The Bart Starr Award is given annually to the N.F.L. player who demonstrates outstanding character. 

The point is that Lombardi could have gone the way of so many. He could have made Starr’s request all about himself, taken offense as though Starr were criticizing him, nursed an insecurity that any criticism was a personal attack. 

Lombardi did none of those things. Instead, he was generous. Generous in thought. Generous in his attention, in that he paid it, and because he paid attention, look at what was accomplished. 

The Green Bay Packers, who were in danger of losing their franchise when Lombardi arrived, quickly engraved themselves into the foundation of the National Football League, Bart Starr garnered numerous accolades during his career, and Vincent Lombardi established himself as one of the pillars of the sport {not to mention, the trophy awarded at the Super Bowl now bears his name: the Lombardi trophy}.

Why? Because Lombardi practiced generosity. 

Lombardi got outside himself in order to grow and achieve. Sometimes the very act of looking beyond how something effects you is generous. 

Generosity exists outside yourself. Where will you find it this week?