It was 2009 and my friends and I were living paycheck to paycheck, happy but poor, new to New York City. Ten of us gathered around the table of a Thai joint on the corner of Bank Street, awaiting a check that we would inevitably split in the itemized fashion because no one wanted to pay for the other’s wine as we suffered through our own tap water. Again, happy but poor.
The server came by, thanked us and turned around on his heel back to his other tables. “Where’s the check?” I asked. “ Oh, I got it”, my friend Victor replied as he started to get up. I was dumbfounded. Now, Victor made more money than most of us, a guy with one of those enviably cool jobs early in life. But still, I was so overwhelmed by this one simple act of generosity.
As I rode the train home to my crappy apartment, I vowed that I wanted to live as generously as I could with what I had at every stage. I started out by treating a friend to a coffee, or a lunch for two. As my financial bandwidth grew, and the ability to pick up a check became more feasible, I began to think about generosity beyond finances.
What about giving my time, giving my attention, and sacrificing my needs for the benefit of others? That shit is hard.
In New York in particular, people are able to be generous with “things," but we’re very space-poor. Space for people to come…spaces to rest, spaces to host, spaces to exist with each other. If you want to see the living room of a New Yorker, walk into their neighborhood bar. So when I was recently apartment hunting, I decided that I would get a place bigger than what I needed. A two bedroom for just me. I wanted to give my New York family the gift of breathing room, here in my home.
My table extends to 12, because I hope to bring that many people together to meet over a meal…shit, I hope we have to pull up some extra chairs in fact. There’s room for my team and other creatives to work here, to relax, to collaborate. There’s room for people to sleep when the average $450 a night hotel is just too expensive. There’s a comfy couch to cry on so we don’t have to shed tears in the corner of a crowded cocktail lounge. A place exists with intention.
So all that to say, we have the opportunity to change the world around us by seeing opportunities to extend generosity. If you can’t yet pick up the check, watch your friend’s baby for a few hours so she can do something nice for herself. Make a home-cooked meal for your people and eat it on the floor crowded around your coffee table if you must. The lie is, that you have to have excess resources live benevolently. The truth is, the only thing you need to live open-handedly is the willingness to do so.
The reason this first issue of The Latest’s theme is GENEROSITY is that I wanted to make something for all of you that was purely a gift. That we would put our time, creative energy, and money into something purely to inspire and delight you. I hope that’s exactly what happens.