Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Generosity. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.

Dave and Sue Lupton have to sit on the floor when they watch TV. Their three pet Vietnamese pot bellied pigs not only hog the remote control, they fill the sofa. In fact, at 180lbs each, Poppy, Danny and Duwee take up most of the couple's tiny bungalow at St Breward, Cornwall. “But,” said Sue, “We love them being in the house - they're my babies, even when they are being difficult.”

Feeling squeezed can be, for many of us, a familiar experience. It might be our work, family commitments, or supporting a friend through a tough time, that takes away our feeling of being able to spread ourselves. Sometimes the appropriate response is to push out of the way what’s making us feel restricted. Sometimes we make space for the extra burdens out of love.

Jesus sometimes went off by himself to escape the pressure of the crowds. But as his final challenge to Jerusalem approached, his love led him to accept increasingly limited options. The demands from the people for healing, the pressure from his opponents and his own understanding of where he was heading combined to squeeze him into a path which led eventually to the utter immobility of the cross.

Perhaps we may feel today that our space or our time is being invaded. We can choose whether to allow that or not. Often the right thing to do is to persevere. Our commitment may lead to our own needs being displaced but our love for the people concerned or our dedication to the particular task makes the sacrifice a joy.

Today is National Doodle Day and Epilepsy Action have obtained permission to use eBay to sell some famous people’s scribbles, like this one by the Duchess of York. Bill Gates and Tony Blair are not among the contributors but journalists found some doodling on a pad near where the two had been sitting at the recent economic summit in Davros.

Graphologists were invited to analyse the author, presumed to be Mr Blair. He was variously described as a spiritual person but not a natural leader, struggling to keep control of a confusing world, and 'an unstable man who is feeling under enormous pressure.’ It all fitted, except that the doodles later turned out to be Bill Gates’.

Our knowledge of who wrote them inevitably influences our judgement about things we read. Our assessment of ideas or behaviour is likely to be more favourable if we like the person we believe to be their author. If we have a poor opinion of someone, we’re likely to take a lot more convincing that what they are doing or saying is valuable.

Many of the people Jesus met were held in low esteem by those around them. He appeared never to be influenced by anyone’s reputation but to take people as he found them, often seeing qualities in them which others had missed. He had a theological conversation with a woman he met at a well; he invited himself to dinner with a tax collector; he chose Simon, a Zealot revolutionary, as a disciple.

Perhaps today we might try seeing the people we meet with fresh and expectant eyes.

Recent research by the supermarket chain, Asda, has revealed that dog-owners are failing their pets by not giving them enough exercise. A rise in obesity, heart disease and arthritis among dogs is the result.

At the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York, on the other hand, dogs can be pampered. On arrival, tails wagging furiously, they get a 22 carat gold plated ID tag, are given a Burberry coat to wear and are served steak au poivre on a silver tray with a choice of flat or sparkling mineral water. Should they have arrived in New York by plane, they are offered massages for ‘pet-lag’.

The Ritz is one of a number of hotels now offering dogs such special VIP treatment. It’s a way for wealthy owners to show their pets how much they are appreciated.

Few of us treat the people close to us with either such neglect or such over-indulgence. It may be more likely that we treat them the same way all the time, perhaps in a way which verges on taking them for granted. Maybe today we could think of some appropriate ways of letting the people who matter to us know it.

The ad simply said “Join me”. 300 replies later, its author, Danny Wallace, realised that his little jape was being taken seriously and he had better invent something in which those who had responded could join him. So began a community of people committed to doing a random act of kindness for a stranger every Friday. “It’s about creating 10 seconds of happiness for someone, and then moving on.”

A social psychologist at California State University has led experiments in 23 cities round the world designed to find the places where people are most likely to show kindness. Poor cities tend to be friendlier than rich ones; overcrowded cities score lowest; but there is no shortage of kindness anywhere.

? A friend of mine was recently chased down the street by someone wanting to return £100 she had left in the ATM when she was distracted by a phone call. Yesterday’s thought bore witness to the honesty of the people of Birmingham.

As the devastating effects of the evil of which some people are capable remain uppermost in our minds, let’s today celebrate the innate generosity and friendliness of the vast majority of our fellow human beings and be glad that most of us don’t need a joke advert to jolt us into acts of kindness.

The nine foot bronze statue of Nelson Mandela unveiled in Parliament Square yesterday might have been in Trafalgar Square. That was the chosen venue of the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, but in 2005 Westminster Council refused permission, saying it would clutter the space needed for large events.

They still keep space however for the Fourth Plinth in the Square, an empty statue base that has had a variety of temporary residents in recent years, many of them provoking strong criticism for the topic chosen and the artistic skill displayed. Earlier this year a competition was even held among Primary Schools to suggest a design.

One interesting possibility is to leave the plinth empty, with an invitation to passers-by to use their own imagination to fill the space. It might be fun today imagining who or what you’d have put on the empty plinth. Would Mandela or some other hero, well-known or otherwise, have been your choice?

It might also be interesting to see how it feels putting one of the people you often want to criticise on a pedestal. Jesus commented on how people want to remove a speck of sawdust from another’s eye but don’t even notice the plank in their own (Matthew 7.3-5). It is much easier to see other people’s faults and very tempting to mention them. It’s sometimes useful to take time before doing so, to ask ourselves if we, in their situation, would be doing any better. Or to wonder what blemishes they might have noticed in our lives.

Leaving the plinth empty has the merit of encouraging those who stand and view the plinth not to find fault with the work of others but to engage in some visual creativity of their own. If that leads us to notice the good qualities of someone we otherwise look down on rather than up to, that may will be more conducive to our inner well being than simply admiring a hero.

At his Mansion House speech on Monday, Gordon Brown suggested we needed a 5 or 6 word motto which would capture what makes Britain great; this has given the cynics a field day.

“Let’s discuss it down the pub” was one suggested slogan.”Better than the other lot" was another. Some ideas have been pretty upbeat "Great people, great country, Great Britain". But the vast majority of suggestions on the website have been mocking and cynical. Perhaps the most pointed has the five words: Dipso fatso bingo ASBO Tesco

Today’s Children in Need appeal on BBC television will raise millions of pounds. The wealthy and the financially struggling alike will contribute. All over the country people will simply respond as best they can and very generously to the needs of sick or deprived children. Yes, it makes us feel good but more importantly many thousands of children will be given new hope and new life by such generosity.

Of course, generosity’s not just about money. It’s about time as well, and also about attitude. If we were asked to make up 5 word slogans about our friends or our families, about ourselves or about life in general, I wonder how many of them would come out cynical or pessimistic. It’s often much easier to notice the bad things in others and in ourselves and to concentrate on the negative aspects of life; but when we do that, we simply contribute to a sort of downward spiral. We help others, and make ourselves feel better, when our opinions are generous. With that attitude to life, we can continue, once this week of excitement is over, to make life better for everyone, not just the country’s children.