Yesterday I went to get my wedding dress hemmed. The seamstress is a family friend of Manu’s aunt and though she doesn’t do it for a living, she graciously offered her services to tailor my dress. If you had been a fly on the wall, you would have thought that she was my own family member, though we’ve only met once three years ago. She explained that I needed a little necklace, and if I wanted I could borrow hers! And if I’m doing my own makeup, she can lend me her brand new Sephora 50-shadow kit! And did I want some tea? How about cookies? And could I stay for lunch, too?
This isn’t rare in Italy. In fact, society is rife with little acts of pure, selfless generosity like these. We went out to dinner Saturday night and my pizza was the last to arrive. Without thinking, one of Manu’s friends grabbed a slice of his pizza, before he even took a bite, to offer to me. Or if I’m standing around the piazza with friends, drinkless, someone is bound to offer some of theirs. When I go to a coffee bar, and I spot a person I know, they immediately they pick up the tab for both coffees.
All of these examples are implanted in their brains, like saying please or thank you. Generosity is a way of life. Even little kids are prone to share, like tiny grandmothers in the works, “Mangia, mangia!” offering you half of their chocolate Kinder bar.
It may sound like simple hospitality, but it goes further than that. It’s a demonstration of love and affection that’s missing in other societies. Maybe it's the strong Catholic influence of loving thy neighbor? Yes, Italians have their defects (i.e., never being on time), but their sense of generosity never ceases to make me feel absolutely at home and welcomed here.
Is generosity one of your strong suits?