I am thankful for the lessons nature has taught me about generosity. There is so much to learn from the natural world about how to live a life based on relationships, abundance and giving. In the spirit of gratitude and giving, I’d like to share three lessons of nature’s generous design that are especially meaningful to me.

  1. Nature starts with a generous act, and it requires a generous response. Nature (and all life on this earth) runs on sunlight, a free and ever-present energy resource. However, photosynthesis is required to transform the sun’s energy into life-giving nutrients that all of life on this planet use to sustain themselves. The generosity in this lesson is twofold. First, sunlight exists in abundance. But we can only receive it if we are willing to actively participate through the generous response of photosynthesis. Moreover, the sunlight that falls on the moon doesn’t give life because there are no trees to photosynthesize its energy. In our personal and professional lives, generosity presents itself frequently. To fully receive it, though, we have to open ourselves to it and answer with a generous response.
  2. Nature is filled with reciprocal relationships that run on abundance and need. As our ecological systems evolve, we become more diverse and complex. When this happens, nature rewards cooperation by creating an abundance of nutrients in one species that another species needs. The abundance is released through relationships between plants and species. Reciprocal relationships then develop as the species with abundance provides necessary nutrients to the other. Humans also have this ability to form reciprocal relationships throughout life by sharing our gifts and, in return, receiving things we need. We can’t access the abundance of resources available to us if we close ourselves off from others.
  3. Nothing in nature lives for itself. The anonymous poem below captures another wonderful reminder about how nature is designed as an interdependent and giving system:

Nothing in Nature lives for itself.

Rivers don’t drink their own water.

Trees don’t eat their own fruits.

The sun doesn’t shine for itself.

A flower’s fragrance is not for itself.

Living for each other is Nature’s rule.

What if this reminder of our fundamental interdependence with each other was something we lived by every day? It might change our default towards self-interest. It could help us to be less scared of scarcity if we remember that nature is designed to support and nourish all of its parts.

We have choices about how we live our lives. We can live a life rooted in fear, hoarding our assets with defensiveness until we die. Or we can live a life grounded in love, where we find security and enough-ness through the generosity of relationships with others and with nature.

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for all the lessons that nature has given me, as I have opened myself to seeing its intricate design and how generous it is.