The bottom half of one of my wife’s favourite dresses
“But, Vaccha, I say that one acquires merit even if one throws away dishwashing water in a refuse dump or cesspit with the thought: ‘May the living beings here sustain themselves with this!’ How much more, then, does one acquire merit when one gives to human beings!”
The quote above is from the Buddha, where he talks about the good karma from giving something miniscule.
But just as there are two sides to giving (there’s a giver and the receiver), there are also two sides to generosity: there is the generosity of giving.
But there is also the generosity in being willing to accept the gifts of others, by accepting what they want to give.
In an early account of the Dalai Lama’s time in India, he was followed by an American journalist, who saw that a poor old woman had waited to give the Dalai Lama a skirt. Apparently, the American exploded at the Dalai Lama after he received the gift: “You don’t need that skirt more than that old lady! Why did you accept it??”
To which the Dalai Lama replied:
It can be a kindness and generosity to let people do things for you. The happiness and joy they get from doing that good deed is perhaps more important than anything else.
Put another way, you’re being generous by letting the other person do some good karma.
To be honest, this view took me a long while.
Growing up, I often resented when my parents would do things for me, like my father cutting fruit for me, or my mum washing my clothes, or either of them going out of their way to ferry me somewhere. I was a fully grown adult, not a baby! I strongly resented the perception of interference and over-parenting (I thought). We had many fights, especially in my teenage years.
But over the years and after many fights, I’ve since realised that, this type of giving is just their way of showing love and care. And I see that it brings them a lot of joy and happiness. It brings them even more joy and happiness when I actually appreciate them for that, and tell them so. So since then, I’ve given up fighting, because isn’t it better to let my parents do something wholesome like this, than to negate any good karma they made by fighting with them?
So it’s probably better to just accept a given skirt, even if you don’t need it.