Screenshot 2022 01 14 at 14 26 04

Rag Man

There was once a man made entirely of rags. His head was a dishcloth; his

clothes a waterfall of fabric; his eyes cracks of blue silk and his mouth a

crescent of scarlet velvet.

When the rag man arrived, children threw things at him, and parents, who

thought nothing mattered more than being clean and tidy, locked their gates. He

went to live in the park.

Then one day people started talking. “What’s happening to the Rag man?” His

locks of hair had been reduced to just a few strands. Even his face looked

thinner. A woman, whose husband had recently died, said, “I feel so guilty. I

should never have accepted the piece of cloth he gave me to dry my tears, but

it reminded me of a shirt I made for my husband.” A man, whose house had

burnt down, said, “I was in despair and the Rag Man gave me a dish cloth. I felt

better at once.” And so, it went on.

The mayor stood up, “The Rag Man has been giving himself away to help

others. It is up to us to give back what he has lost.” People came from all over

town and left clothes they no longer needed. The Rag Man became as colourful

and as ragged as before and the townspeople recognised in his costume

pieces they knew.

I came across this beautiful tale in an abridged version of ‘Meet me at the

Museum’ by Anne Youngson[1]. It reminded me of a meeting I attended last

week with a business network. One of their principles for success was to be

generous. They believed that by helping others, they too would be helped. They

called it ‘Giver’s Gain’.

When I first read Five Ways to Wellbeing, a report by the NHS[2], I was struck

how being generous was highlighted as a key element to improving one's

wellbeing. They called it ‘Give’. Their advice was to:

Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer

your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself,

and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding

and creates connections with the people around you.

It is hardly surprising that there is plenty of evidence to show that generosity is

a key to happiness. Two thousand years ago Jesus made it one of his

principles for living: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed

down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with

the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”[3]

Recently, I was asked to think of something positive that might have come out

of the pandemic. What came to mind was the wonderful community spirit that

so quickly emerged, and the way people volunteered their time, energy, and

money, to help others. Generosity, displayed through numerous acts of

kindness, was a feature of every community.

As our communities recover from the pandemic, it’s my hope that

they will continue to be places blessed with a spirit of generosity. If it is

to be true of my community, I must ask myself, is it true of me?


[1] Youngson A, 2018, Meet me at the Museum, Penguin Random House

[2] NHS Consortium, 2011 Five Ways to Wellbeing, New Economics


[3] Luke Chapter 6 verse 38, NIV