The Irish have a world-wide reputation for many things. The famine, the troubles, drinking, and luck are all well known. But the truest generalization I can make about the Irish I know is that they are generous.
Any of my friends would give me their last onion if I needed one for my dinner just as quickly as they would buy me an impromptu coffee if I didn't bring my purse on the school run. Equally, they offer to do favors without blinking an eye. There is an understanding that we are all there for each other. The idea is that what you give will always come back to you. Instant karma. The worst thing you can be here is 'mean' or cheap.
We first realized it when we threw a Halloween party. We said, bring the kids and we'll have chili and hot dogs, plus games and candy and all the American stuff that goes with Halloween. Every couple brought either a bottle of wine or beer. It was incredible. We had like 5 bottles of wine at the end of the evening and that was with drinking it during the party. Others brought bags of treat sized candy in addition to the booze. That's when it dawned on me: you don't go anywhere without bringing something. It sounds strange to me even thinking that's a new idea because it's been so ingrained since being here.
Of course at home when there's a party we offer to bring something or to help with the food…don't we? I really can't remember but surely we do right? It is really lovely how when you're invited to someone's house for tea or a coffee morning everyone brings something. Usually biscuits (cookies), sometimes flowers and even crisps (chips) if there are going to be kids around. It is just what's done. No one would ever dream of showing up at a house empty handed. And if it's a Friday afternoon during the summer someone will bring wine, but don't let that get out.
I could never give enough examples to convey the generosity I have received here. There is a generosity of time, spirit, money, love and laughter that cannot be matched. I can say that I have received many gifts here; none as valuable as the lesson on how to give.
So, thank you. For lunch today, for sharing school collections, for texts, for tea, for cakes, for laughter and above all, for friendship.