This post was originally written in 2013.
My mother once told me that my grandmother was known for her generosity. When people remember her, their thoughts often includes a favor or nice thing that she did for them. Same with my Grandpa, the generosity usually came in the way of giving them a good job when they needed it most and helping them to keep it because he valued the people and not just their work.
My mom is the same, she often goes out of her way to do something nice for someone else, whether it be opening her home or lending her truck or other tools or anything she might have on hand. It has sometimes ended badly, with costly repairs or lost items when she needs them most. Sometimes it ends with downright lies. No one is breaking her things on purpose and the lying can probably be clarified more as not knowing any better. But it occurred to me that there may come a time when you have to decide whether it is still okay to lend out your things when people don’t treat them, or you, with care.
I try to be like my mom and her parents, my favors and gifts often come in the way of giving out my photographs, which gives me so much joy to see people appreciate them. They may not realize the time that went into editing the photos, but they appreciate the end-product.
I want to think of generosity as a positive experience for all parties, where everyone and their belongings are appreciated (and returned!). In a world where etiquette is not often taught, sometimes that’s a losing battle.
Instead of getting angry and losing my own sense of etiquette when people mistreat another’s kindness, I might invest in some etiquette books and give them as presents. I will make sure to pick one up for myself too.
In case you were wondering, here is Emily Post’s etiquette on Lending and Borrowing.
It’s neighborly to be generous, but frequent borrowers soon become neighborhood pests. While it’s preferable not to borrow from neighbors, follow these etiquette principles if you do.
Ask for the item but don’t persist. If your neighbor says “no” or seems at all reluctant, drop the matter with a polite “I understand.”
Give a time when you will return the item, and be punctual. If the lender says she needs the item back by a certain time, don’t abuse her trust.
Return the item in at least as good condition as when you borrowed it. Refill the tank before you put the mower back. When “borrowing” a carton of milk or a can of motor oil, replace it exactly – same brand and quantity.
Repair, replace, or pay for anything that’s damaged, broken, or lost. Don’t just tell your neighbor what happened (or worse, ignore the whole thing) and expect him to let the matter slide.
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