When ER debuted in the Fall of ’94, I had an infant and a two-year-old, and I’m sure escaping into TV melodrama was a welcome respite from the storms my wee ones managed to whirl. I remember lying on our sofa nursing my son–right side, left side, right side, left–through ER, the news and then late nights with Leno and Letterman.
During the episodes leading up to his death, Dr. Green takes his daughter to Hawaii, to teach her important life lessons–how to drive, how to surf, I really don’t recall much else.
Except a last admonishment to her, one that has haunted me in the ensuing years.
“Be generous. Always.”
It struck me as odd, then, that a parent’s dying words would speak to generosity. It was unsettling for some reason; I judged those words as somehow falling short. In my mind, as a believer, I felt like he should have offered some great spiritual insight, something with eternal value, something … more. Of course, I realized it was television after all, and the series had never before offered anything substantively spiritually enlightening; but still, I saw it as missed opportunity.
At some point, years later, I learned a painfully difficult lesson in generosity. It involved a close friend, fingers pointing in my direction and accusing harsh words. In essence, my friend told me she pitied me because she saw no generosity in me, that I must be missing so much in life because of my inability to give to others.
These were verbal daggers; I felt they were unwarranted, unjust, unfair! How DARE she accuse me! In my mind I thought about all the anonymous gifts I had made, all the things I had done for others quietly and without need for recognition or recompense, and she didn’t know what in the world she was talking about.
The volatility of that conversation could have wrecked a precious friendship, and the truth is, it did for a while.
After a flood of tears, some counsel from another friend…and earnest prayer, I realized God was using this to affect me, change me–to renew my mind and transform my heart. I prayed that He would expose any areas of selfishness or greed in me; that I would hold loosely material things, and consider others in need more than myself…that I could focus on how He was conforming me to His image amidst the hurt feelings, that I wouldn’t harbor bitterness, and that I could forgive freely.
I recognized there was her perspective, my perspective, and the truth lay somewhere in between.
I also realized I did withhold generosity from this friend; somehow I felt she demanded something “more” from me, and stubbornly, I wasn’t going to “give in”.
Those dying words of fictional doctor Mark Green are profound and deeply spiritual to me now.
Just thinking about the gospel, what God did in sending His son into this world, what Jesus did in enduring the cross, is there anything more loving, more unimaginable, more generous than giving your life for another?
I’m curious–what your thoughts are in response to Dr. Green’s admonition? Have you learned a difficult “life lesson” through conflict in friendship?
WOW Robin what heartfelt post. I can’t say that I learned a life less from a conflict in friendship. God has a way with getting us to pay attention. He knows the areas we need to work on and one at a time He somehow gets us to notice. He’s awesome isn’t He?
Yes, definitely. My favorite conflict resolutions are when my friend and I BOTH realize we had things to learn from Him about whatever it was. All good in me is HIM anyway, let’s be honest! It’s not me, it’s Him shining out. He’s still tweaking me, and re-tweaking me, oh, and sometimes sending his size 43ZZZ boot the way of my tush, and…anyway, it’s Him. Trust me.
Beautiful post, Robin. I remember that episode so well – it was a tearjerker, but I have to think if I watched it again now, so many years later, it would mean so much more. I stopped watching ER pretty soon after Dr. Greene was no longer on the show, but I did see he’d be coming back for a future episode.
I’ve learned many tough life lessons. One is that sometimes we screw up in relationships – really badly. We can beat ourselves up for years for that screw up, and feel all kinds of horrible, nonsensical feelings. But when we finally get to the point where we realize we must forgive, we can start over in so many ways. Sometimes the forgiveness needs to be for others — sometimes for ourselves.
Dr. Green was my absolute favorite ER character ever. I cried when they got the letter from Elizabeth saying that he had died. Then the next week, when they played that episode of them in Hawaii, I cried until I couldn’t breathe. It was so well done. I never hear that version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” without thinking of Dr. Green and being a little sad (even though he was a fictional character).
And you’re so right about generosity. It can make such a huge difference in our lives & in the world if we are generous with our posessions, our time, and our goodwill.
Absolutely beautiful post. “Have you learned a difficult “life lesson” through conflict in friendship?” – absolutely. Through a conflict that ended my relationship withe my sister. My hard heart refused to forgive her and it took the death of my best friend to make me reach out to my sister and forgive. Unfortunately, she has no interest in accepting the flag of truce. So now I’m learning how to let go of that and live my life the way God wants me too and to let go of the residual bitterness. Very hard pill to swallow!
Beautifully written…and a lesson I still struggle with.
I lost a friend due to my critical spirit towards my husband years ago. That loss taught me so much about my words and how I look at others.
Loved the way you used a TV show quote and applied it to real life. Excellent!
Love this post, Robin. It is beautifully written and reminds us that generosity is so much more than just a donation of goods or services to another. It also involves giving of our hearts, our love, and our forgiveness.
That last episode of ER made me cry like no other tv show ever has. In fact, whenever it’s on as a rerun, I still cry.
It’s choking me up now knowing this is it for one of my favoirte shows. I haven’t stopped watching it.
And yes, that show has great life lessons.
I did catch some of the episodes where Dr. Green was dying. I think he was right, and that Jesus’s example represents the absolute greatest and most generous dead one can do.
Oh how I loved ER when my girls were little. We couldn’t wait for it to be on each week. I think we stopped watching shortly after Dr. Greene died, too. It was just too much to bear.
You are absolutely right about ultimate generosity. True generosity probably involves some sacrifice, huh?
I’ve learned quite a few “life lessons” from friends, but the biggest one learned was a biggie from Mr. Right. When he forgave me so fully for a serious, ugly mistake, he make me realize the beauty of knowing that I had a new, clean slate was a glorious thing.
He was generous beyond my imagination. Just think how God’s generosity completely makes any human generosity pale in comparison!
Wow, what an emotional post. I never watched ER (I know, I’m unAmerican) but it was a great example of the question you are struggling with. I don’t know the answer to your question, but you can bet I will be thinking about it.
Really nice, Robin. Dr. Greene was/is my favorite. This has been sitting in my reader for days because I had to read in a quiet moment. I am heartbroken that ER is going away. Hint to my family-DVD’s!
Anyway, over the years I have found that generosity-of money, spirit, friendship, is something that is easy to give and brings great benefits-it comes back to you many times over. Dr. Greene had it right.
Being generous feels good to the person who receives it and gives it..it’s a win win situation!
I remember that line! It hit me like an 18-wheeler, because we were living in a new city at the time with wee little people to care for, no support system, no friends, etc.
To this day, it ranks as one of the most profound pieces of prose I’ve ever heard through our talking box in the living room. Without generosity, I frankly don’t know what we have here. Or what it means.
I come from an extended family where generosity is something that is overtly displayed for all to see. It’s never about doing the small things that matter most that no one sees. It’s about the glitzy recognition, the endless patting on the back. It ain’t me, which explains why I don’t get a lot of generosity from my extended family. I’ve chosen to follow a quieter, more meaningful (to me, anyway) path.
Which is why I found your friend’s accusations more than a little amusing and disturbing. You’re possibly one of the most generous folks I’ve encountered in blogland. Always there to offer a suggestion or serve as a sounding board for an idea. To anyone. At any time.
Generosity of spirit is a guiding principle of my own life now. And it pervades our home as my wife and I try to teach our kids the same thing. Not easy with an extended family like mine, but we’re managing.
If anything, your friend’s comment was the antithesis of generosity. I’m so glad you used it as a catalyst for thought and change. I’m not at all surprised, mind you.
Well said. This really speaks to me. When we cut our income several years ago, I struggled so much. I became really angry with myself because I wasn’t being generous anymore. I discovered how important generosity was not only to those I served, and because it was the right thing to do, but also to my self worth. So even though our income hasn’t changed significantly, we’ve made it a priority and I’m happier as a more generous person.
Thank you for the reminder.
I found your post through BlogNosh and was truly moved. It’s ironic how the most ordinary things in life (like watching a tv show) can make such an impact on us…. I’ve had a few moments such as this. One in particular left me with an epiphany in the midst of a movie theater, altering the path of my life in years since. HE speaks in many forms, through many people. It is us that have to listen!