What's the most generous thing you've ever done?

How has your life been changed because of someone else's generosity?

Formal religions and traditional societies agree: Generosity is A Good Thing.

I like the Virtues Project's definition, which says, in part: "You share freely, not with the idea of receiving something in return. You find ways to give others happiness and give just for the joy of giving."

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That's far more expansive than the dictionaries, whose definitions have an odd and narrow focus on giving more than is expected.

When people give a donation of money or some large material item, we're generally quick to label that as generous. And many locals are very generous in donating items they no longer need to the numerous charity shops here.

Whanganui Hospice has no less than three shops; St John, the SPCA, the Salvation Army and Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and others all raise funds from the sale of donations to benefit those they work with.

The Koha Shed is a different kind of venture, accepting goods and freely giving them to those who want them. Often their "customers" are people in dire need, and the Koha Shed has become a place of refuge for those who fall outside the criteria for assistance from more official agencies.

What doesn't help is people dumping rubbish after hours.

All the op shops have this problem. When things are dropped off after hours, goods that are saleable are likely to be stolen, or ruined as opportunists rummage through them.

But a lot of what is dumped is simply rubbish. It can't be used any longer and needs to be broken down and recycled or properly disposed of in a regulated landfill. There's zero generosity in making your rubbish someone else's expense.

Unfortunately, The Koha Shed had a bad run of exactly this earlier this year. It got so bad that founder Sherron Sunnex got her hands on security cameras and posted a notice saying dumpers would be referred to the police.

Ironically, the security cameras were pinched off the building just before the sparky wired them in.

Sherron ended up spending time, petrol and money on multiple trips to the tip throughout January. Needless to say, all of that could have been better used elsewhere.

As she so eloquently put it, in a public appeal: "Please only drop off stuff you know someone you love would want, if they needed it. Then we can give it away to others."

One assumes that people dump rubbish — on charity shops or on public land — to avoid paying tip fees. Whanganui District Council had to stump up $135,000 in 2016-17 to dispose of illegally dumped rubbish and estimates it will be as high as $150,000 this year.

So think about how you and other ratepayers are bearing that cost and don't hesitate to report people you see dumping rubbish (call the council and provide a car registration number and description if possible).

We all need to take responsibility for our own shit — and I mean that in the broadest
sense.

That's why Marie Kondo's breathless exhortations make me roll my eyes. In her best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, she tells you to pile into rubbish bags all those possessions that don't "bring you joy" and chuck it out.

Here's one easy step to less clutter, waste and landfill: Don't bring it home in the first place. Consider this an act of generosity toward the planet and future generations.

You don't have to be rich to be generous, and it is often observed that those with the least material resources are the most willing to share what they have. Often the most meaningful generosity involves giving time and attention rather than money.

And intention is most important of all. Sometimes even the most genuine gifts of our time or love or resources are not received well — there is misunderstanding or unintended consequences. All we can do is try, with all the love we can muster.

Better that than the outward grand gestures that at heart are self-serving. It's not really a gift if you want something in return, whether that's a present on your birthday or a return invitation or status and publicity. Grasping reduces a gift to a transaction.

I was humbled recently by the generosity of a friend I hadn't seen in 30 years. On the other side of the world for a school reunion last year, my plans were suddenly thrown up in the air — and all while I was barely upright, battling a bout of flu.

Darren, without any fuss, gracefully included me in his plans for the next few days until my flight home. That meant some much needed rest, restorative home cooking — and a trip to Whistler, the famous Canadian ski resort that is also beautiful in summer.

We're so vulnerable when ill and I won't forget his kindness.

It's a lovely example of how I understand manaakitanga which is offered as a translation for generosity but encompasses so much more — hospitality, kindness, support and the process of showing respect, generosity and care for others.

We can all do with more of that.

*Rachel Rose is a Whanganui-based writer. More information can be found at www.facebook.com/rachelrose.writer