My most poignant experiences with generosity have happened through mentorship. Amongst an eclectic network of mentors – comprised of childhood dance and art teachers, colleagues and college professors to family members, peers and fellow artists – I have discovered various facets of generosity; most notably, the three S’s of Selflessness, Sharing and Service.
Selflessness is an essential facet of generosity. Researchers studying the science of generosity at the University of Notre Dame report “generosity always intends to enhance the true well-being of those to whom it gives.” Generosity often requires stepping outside oneself for a moment to give for the purpose of enriching others.
I am reminded of this while reflecting on my childhood and how my late grandma played an integral part in developing my creativity and, inadvertently, igniting a future passion for mixed media art. Perceptive of my vivid imagination, my grandma kept a cardboard box for me under the chair in her hallway broom closet filled with old gift ribbons, mismatched buttons, knickknacks and other commonly discarded scraps, which I used to create all sorts of fun arts and craftsy things. The possibilities were infinite!
From age 6 to 14, every visit to my grandparent’s house involved an exciting discovery of some new treasure in the box. As the fifth of six grandchildren at the time, it meant a lot that my grandma took the time to do something just for me. Also being the extremely neat and tidy person she was, I smile knowing my grandma held onto that unnecessary clutter solely for my benefit.
Generosity requires selflessness; yet, at the same time, it incites an abundance of sharing mutually beneficial to its giver and receiver. For the past 16 years, I have kept in contact with a favorite English professor I had while attending Seattle University as an undergrad. Dr. Hamida Bosmajian continues to be an invaluable mentor to me, constructively critiquing my writing and artwork and constantly encouraging me to pursue artistic opportunities. We frequently trade letters, divulging in our common interests of classic novels, New York Times Bestsellers, documentaries, plays, art exhibits and a commitment to lifelong learning. With different cultural backgrounds and a 45-year age gap between us, we find a lot to learn from and share with one another.
Service is a key facet of generosity. Its nature of giving and coming to the aid of others, makes service the backbone of generosity. I am eternally grateful to the individuals, throughout my life, who chose to mentor me, serving to foster my growth professionally and personally.
Although I read it several years ago, Wes Moore’s memoir, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates,” still resonates with me through its emphasis on the power of mentorship in relation to generosity. The bestselling memoir tells the story of two men, both named Wes Moore with similar backgrounds who grow up in Baltimore blocks away from each other. While the author, Wes Moore, grows up to be a Rhodes Scholar and highly successful businessman, the other Wes Moore faces a life sentence in prison.
Access to mentors, positive role models and a supportive community served as critical factors determining the life trajectories of these young men. Describing his mentors, author Wes Moore writes, “I found myself surrounded by people…leading to a string of wonderful role models and mentors – who kept pushing me…to see the boundless possibilities of the wider world and the unexplored possibilities within myself.” Although the challenges I faced growing up were faintly comparable to what author Wes Moore experienced, I was also lucky to find mentors who provide me with guidance – and continue to guide me – along the path to educational and professional success. My mentors unearth potential in me that I can’t see, sieving it from the rubble… polishing it and making it sparkle.
On a much larger scale, I am profoundly inspired by those volunteers, educators, medical professionals, emergency responders, artists, public servants, military personnel and countless others who generously invest their time, knowledge and resources to serve others. Your generosity is immeasurable.
Tracy Poindexter-Canton currently serves in the Special Education department at Northeast Washington Educational Service District 101. A mixed media artist, creative writer and graduate of Seattle University and Gonzaga University, Tracy is passionate about the arts and being a person for others. Her department lead, Dr. Connie Kliewer, a current member of the PACE Leadership Team, invited Tracy to contribute to this column.