Radical Generosity

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If I could share 500 words to inspire, this is the important wisdom I'd want to pass along to others...

  • “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” – The Dalai Lama
    I’ve always thought of myself as a kind person. But in my fourth decade of life, I learned what true kindness is. A brain surgeon had just asked me if I would give my daughter’s vital organs to strangers. Maya, 19, had been declared brain dead and doctors had signed her death certificate. They were preparing to remove the machines keeping her heart pumping and her lungs breathing.
    I was frozen with grief, paralyzed by anguish I thought I would never outlive. But I heard myself say “Yes!” to the doctor’s request.
    In that moment I made a decision that would change my life forever, and radically alter the lives of countless others. Four people’s lives were saved, two people had their sight restored, and dozens benefitted from Maya’s bone and skin tissues which were processed and stored. Through the miracle of donation and transplantation, families were kept whole, and people on the verge of death found new life and strength.
    Here are the lessons I carry with me, ones I remind myself of often:
    1. Help others at every opportunity. When you are down or hurting, helping others helps you just as much. Generosity is healing and helps you overcome challenges, including grief or depression. It takes you away from your troubles and increases your kindness quotient.
    2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I used to fume over parking spaces, late bills, missed calls, rude people, you name it. Now, I know they are a normal part of life for everyone, including me. I don’t take it personally. Keep a sense of perspective. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in five years, or even tomorrow?”
    3. Share your love. It’s a funny thing about love. Giving it away makes it grow. You’ll never diminish love by sharing it. Love is infinite. It cannot be divided. Only multiplied. So be generous with hugs, kind words, praise, and encouragement. Everyone wins!
    4. Be grateful for everything. Take nothing for granted. Life can change – or end – in a moment. Every breath, every sunbeam, every smile is a priceless gift. Keep a gratitude journal and write in it each night – at least three things you are grateful for. It will change your life, I promise.
    5. Believe in life. When Maya died, it would have been so easy to give up. But because I chose radical generosity in a moment of crisis, hope was reborn. I met the man who received my daughter’s heart, and heard it beating in his chest. With trust and faith, anything can be overcome. Believe in something greater than yourself!
    April is National Donate Life Month. Become an organ donor. Share your decision with your family and friends. Visit http://donatelife.net/understanding-donation/ for more information.
    Enter your Brilliance in this space

    Eleanor Vincent

    Eleanor Vincent’s debut memoir, Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story, poignantly describes the death of her 19-year-old daughter in a horse riding accident and the subsequent donation of Maya’s organs to strangers in need. Eleanor’s meeting with the man who received Maya’s heart, and their ensuing friendship, is described in her memoir. The book is a New York Times e-book bestseller and was nominated for the Independent Publisher of the Year award. Her poetry and essays have been published in several collections, including Creative Nonfiction’s anthology, At the End of Life, and This I Believe: On Motherhood. She holds an MFA from Mills College in Creative Nonfiction and has taught there as a visiting writer. She is a member of the Author’s Guild and the San Francisco Writers Grotto. Eleanor encourages others to tap their innate resilience by freeing the creator within. Her work inspiring other donor families was recognized with a community service award from the California Transplant Donor Network.

    For more information, please visit eleanorvincent.com.

    View all posts by Eleanor Vincent.

    1. Bob Gerst
      Bob Gerst says:

      Eleanor – Thank you for sharing – as father of 2 kids and grandfather to 3 – I have wondered about losing any of them and what I might do, how I might react, what would play out in those times – it is just to dark for me to think about. But, you have helped me fill in my reserve of strength for the most horrible to the mundane – thank you for caring. Bob

      • Eleanor Vincent
        Eleanor Vincent says:

        Bob – losing anyone we love is so difficult. Children and grandchildren are precious beyond words, so it is almost impossible to contemplate. Good for you for giving it some consideration. Building our “spiritual muscles” for challenging times is vital. I’m so pleased if my offering helps in any way. Blessings to you!

    2. Launa Craig
      Launa Craig says:

      Ellie – Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Life can be difficult and filling it with love and gratitude helps a bunch.

    3. Sherrey Meyer
      Sherrey Meyer says:

      Eleanor, having read your memoir, I find the wisdom and gracious extension of gifts to others at the end of Maya’s life a remarkable act. My husband and I are organ donors, and we hope others realize the importance of becoming a donor. Thanks for your post.


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