[do action=”vfdictstart” title=”gen·er·os·i·ty”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”readiness or liberality in giving.”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character.”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”a generous act: We thanked him for his many generosities.”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”largeness or fullness; amplitude.”/] [do action=”vfdictend”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” author=”Mother Teresa”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”He who allows his day to pass by without practicing generosity and enjoying life’s pleasures is like a blacksmith’s bellows: he breathes but does not live.” author=”Proverb quotes”/]
Readiness or liberality in giving to those in need.
BUYING COFFEE FOR 500 STRANGERS
A man walked into a Tim Hortons coffee shop in Edmonton, Canada, in July and ordered a large “double double” and a Boston cream doughnut. That was not at all unusual. But then he asked the staff how many large coffees they typically sell in a day, according to Metro Edmonton. “A lot,” the clerk answered. The man said he wanted to buy a large coffee for the next 500 customers who ordered one. He paid $895.28 with a debit card, and walked out. It seems the entire country took the idea and ran with it. A wave of copycats “pouring it forward” soon hit, and benefactors from Saskatoon to Chestermere to Calgary began buying hundreds of cups of coffee for strangers, reports CTV news. In Ottawa, a man gave $860 to Tim Horton’s cashiers and told customers to order whatever they wanted. Most of the donors remained anonymous, but one woman who bought 800 coffees in Edmonton said she just wanted to up the ante after hearing about the first case.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” author=”Buddha”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”To know the value of generosity, it is necessary to have suffered from the cold indifference of others.” author=”Eugene Cloutier”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.” author=”Mother Teresa”/]
Someone once said that a good example of generosity is a mother who, seeing there are only four slices of pie for five people, promptly announces that she never cared for pie. Let us thank people who, in so many ways and in so many instances, gave us what rightfully belonged to them, especially those who did so without much fanfare and without expecting anything in return.
Generosity Feels Good
Giving your time, love, patience, attention and affection are all aspects of generosity. Sharing a smile with someone on the street, offering a hug to a friend, or taking time for a loved one are simple acts to perform, yet they reap huge benefits. When you give or receive any of these your heart opens, your mood lightens and your trust deepens. Living from a place of generosity assures that you are always in a state of abundance in life. What else could feel so good?
All it takes is an agreement to be generous. First with yourself and then with others; the more loving, kind and patient you are with yourself, the more you will reflect this to others, and of course, the more this will be mirrored back to you.
Whenever we feel as though others are treating us poorly or life is unjust, we are most likely being stingy with ourselves. As soon as we breathe in generosity and give ourselves what we most need, our perspective brightens and so does our life.
- What does being generous mean to you? In addition to monetary gifts, what other ways can one be generous?
- What are you most generous with in regard to other people? What are you most generous with in regard to yourself?
- What does it feel like to be generous? What does it feel like to receive generosity? How does giving and receiving impact your life – what are the ripple effects?
- Choose three things you feel comfortable giving (a smile, a hug, a cup of coffee etc.) and give them to others today. Notice how you feel doing this.
- Choose three things you would love to receive and give them to yourself this week. See if this increases your self-esteem and self-affinity.
- Tune into the state of generosity by reflecting on how good it feels to give and receive. Let this feeling of generosity flow within your whole body and mind, down into the cells. Turn up the volume on it and let it shine out from you everywhere you go.
How to Be Generous
Generosity can seem like a lost art in our society. With such a fast pace of living, people often are too self-absorbed to take note of being gracious and generous. Approached as an individual act, generosity can be a simple gesture that has enormous, lasting results.
- Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.” For us to improve our social graces, the significance must be understood. In almost any setting where we are not alone, there will be opportunity for us to reach out in a small but significant way. If we can understand the significance, we are certain to grow in our awareness.
- Never underestimate the small acts of kindness. While holding the door for someone may not seem to mean much to you, it can mean a great deal to someone who is elderly or disabled. It can also mean more than you can know to the person who is not accustomed to being treated with generosity. A simple, thoughtful act can remind someone that there is still good in the world.
- To be generous is to give of yourself to someone who can benefit from such an act. Generosity can be acts of charity, such as donations, or it can be mowing your neighbor’s grass because he has been ill. While monetary generosity is essential in our society in helping those who are most in need, the generosity of time is just as important. How much does it mean to an elderly person living alone to have someone spend an hour just talking with them? The worth is immeasurable.
- Teach your children generosity. They will grow to be observing adults with a generous nature. It is a tremendous quality to pass down to the next generation. There will always be those who just need one generous act to make all the difference in their lives.
GIVING AWAY $5 BILLS AT AN INTERSECTION
What do you do when you see a man holding a sign at an intersection? If you pretend to fiddle with the radio or suddenly notice an interesting cloud in the other direction, you would have missed Doug Eaton’s birthday celebration. Eaton turned 65 last year and decided to celebrate by spending 65 minutes handing out $5 bills to people in Oklahoma City, Okla. He stood at an intersection holding a sign that said: “I have a home . . . and a car . . . and a job. Do you need a few bucks for some coffee?” People didn’t know what to think, reports Oklahoma City news station KFOR. “I think this is the craziest guy I’ve ever seen in my life,” one driver told KFOR. “It’s fantastic. I’m enjoying the moment out here.” Eaton also described the experience as fantastic. “Some people who don’t take the money just say, ‘Man, I love what you’re doing. I won’t take it, but would you give it to somebody who needs it?'”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”To be rich in admiration and free from envy, to rejoice greatly in the good of others, to love with such generosity of heart that your love is still a dear possession in absence or unkindness – these are the gifts which money cannot buy” author=”Robert Louis Stevenson”/]
Generosity is the habit of giving freely without expecting anything in return. It can involve offering time, assets or talents to aid someone in need. Often equated with charity as a virtue, generosity is widely accepted in society as a desirable trait.
In times of natural disaster, relief efforts are frequently provided, voluntarily, by individuals or groups acting unilaterally in making gifts of time, resources, goods, money, etc.
Generosity is a guiding principle for many registered charities, foundations and non-profit organizations.
Generosity can also be spending time, money, or labor, for others, without being rewarded in return.
Although the term generosity often goes hand-in-hand with charity, many people in the public’s eye want recognition for their good deeds. Donations are needed to support organizations and committees, however, generosity should not be limited to times of great need such as natural disasters and extreme situations.
Generosity is not solely based on one’s economic status, but instead, includes the individual’s pure intentions of looking out for society’s common good and giving from the heart. Generosity should reflect the individual’s passion to help others. In Buddhism, generosity is the antidote to the self-chosen poison called greed.
The Islam Quran states that whatever we give away generously, with the intention of pleasing God, He will replace it. God knows what is in the hearts of men. Say: “Truly, my Lord enlarges the provision for whom He wills of His slaves, and also restricts it) for him, and whatsoever you spend of anything (in God’s Cause), He will replace it. And He is the Best of providers.”
The modern English word “generosity” derives from the Latin word generōsus, which means “of noble birth,” which itself was passed down to English through the Old French word generous. The Latin stem gener– is the declensional stem of genus, meaning “kin,” “clan,” “race,” or “stock,” with the root Indo–European meaning of gen being “to beget.” The same root gives us the words genesis, gentry, gender, genital, gentile, genealogy, and genius, among others.
Most recorded English uses of the word “generous” up to and during the Sixteenth Century reflect an aristocratic sense of being of noble lineage or high birth. To be generous was literally a way of complying to nobility.” During the 17th Century, however, the meaning and use of the word began to change. Generosity came increasingly to identify not literal family heritage but a nobility of spirit thought to be associated with high birth— that is, with various admirable qualities that could now vary from person to person, depending not on family history but on whether a person actually possessed the qualities. In this way generosity increasingly came in the 17th Century to signify a variety of traits of character and action historically associated (whether accurately or not) with the ideals of actual nobility: gallantry, courage, strength, richness, gentleness, and fairness. In addition to describing these diverse human qualities, “generous” became a word during this period used to describe fertile land, the strength of animal breeds, abundant provisions of food, vibrancy of colors, the strength of liquor, and the potency of medicine.
Then, during the 18th Century, the meaning of “generosity” continued to evolve in directions denoting the more specific, contemporary meaning of munificence, open–handedness, and liberality in the giving of money and possessions to others. This more specific meaning came to dominate English usage by the 19th Century. Over the last five centuries in the English speaking world, “generosity” developed from being primarily the description of an ascribed status pertaining to the elite nobility to being an achieved mark of admirable personal quality and action capable of being exercised in theory by any person who had learned virtue and noble character.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” author=”Winston Churchill”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Be the change you want to see in the world.” author=”Mahatma Gandhi”/]
Mother’s father worked as a carpenter. On this particular day, he was building some crates for the clothes his church was sending to some orphanage in China. On his way home, he reached into his shirt pocket to find his glasses, but they were gone. When he mentally replayed his earlier actions, he realized what happened; the glasses had slipped out of his pocket unnoticed and fallen into one of the crates, which he had nailed shut. His brand new glasses were heading for China! The Great Depression was at it’s height and Grandpa had six children. He had spent $20 for those glasses that very morning. He was upset by the thought of having to buy another pair. “It’s not fair,” he told God as he drove home in frustration. “I’ve been very faithful in giving of my time and money to your work, and now this.” Several months later, the director of the orphanage was on furlough in the United States. He wanted to visit all the churches that supported him in China, so he came to speak one Sunday at my grandfather’s small church in Chicago. The missionary began by thanking the people for their faithfulness in supporting the orphanage. “But most of all,” he said, “I must thank you for the glasses you sent last year. You see, the Communists had just swept through the orphanage, destroying everything, including my glasses. I was desperate. Even if I had the money, there was simply no way of replacing those glasses. Along with not being able to see well, I experienced headaches every day, so my coworkers and I were much in prayer about this. Then your crates arrived. When my staff removed the covers, they found a pair of glasses lying on top. The missionary paused long enough to let his words sink in. Then, still gripped with the wonder of it all, he continued: “Folks, when I tried on the glasses, it was as though they had been custom-made just for me! I want to thank you for being a part of that.” The people listened, happy for the miraculous glasses. But the missionary surely must have confused their church with another, they thought. There were no glasses on their list of items to be sent overseas. But sitting quietly in the back, with tears streaming down his face, an ordinary carpenter realized the Master Carpenter had used him in an extraordinary way.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” author=”Mother Teresa”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.” author=”Albert Einstein”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The giving of love is an education in itself” author=”Eleanor Roosevelt”/]
What is Generosity?
For our purposes, we use the word generosity to refer to the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly.
- Generosity thus conceived is a learned character trait that involves both attitude and action—entailing as a virtue both an inclination or predilection to give liberally and an actual practice of giving liberally.
- Generosity is therefore not a random idea or haphazard behavior but rather, in its mature form, a basic, personal, moral orientation to life. Furthermore, in a world of moral contrasts, generosity entails not only the moral good expressed but also many vices rejected (selfishness, greed, fear, meanness).
- Generosity also involves giving to others not simply anything in abundance but rather giving those things that are good for others. Generosity always intends to enhance the true wellbeing of those to whom it gives.
- What exactly generosity gives can be various things: money, possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, and more.
- Generosity, to be clear, is not identical to pure altruism, since people can be authentically generous in part for reasons that serve their own interests as well as those of others. Indeed, insofar as generosity is a virtue, to practice it for the good of others also necessarily means that doing so achieves one’s own true, long–term good as well.
- And so generosity, like all of the virtues, is in people’s genuine enlightened self-interest to learn and practice.
The Roots of Generosity: A Brief Cultural History
The virtue of generosity has been central throughout the Western tradition, though not always under that name. In order to grasp its ongoing significance, it is vital to place generosity within a broader context of reflection on hospitality, liberality, love, and charity. We discover in short order that pondering the nature of generosity has most often involved fundamental religious questions concerning the nature of humanity, God, and the human-divine relationship. Sustaining the intelligibility and possibility of the virtue of generosity into the future will require something at least as powerful as these inherited contexts of meaning and justification.
The special place of the virtue of hospitality throughout the Middle East has often been noted. The Arab/Islamic tradition in particular emphasizes that the faithful have a duty to God to show generous hospitality towards the stranger, offering them shelter and the best food and drink available. This virtue has deep historical roots, as is witnessed by the Hebrew Bible. It is exemplified in Abraham’s eagerness to host the three strangers who approach his tent in the wilderness, strangers whom the text identifies as Yahweh appearing to Abraham. In showing hospitality to strangers, Abraham has thus honored God and has been enabled to hear God’s covenantal promise of a son in his old age. Aliens, together with widows, orphans, and the poor, are lifted up for special moral attention, and the Israelites are repeatedly reminded that “you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Thus, care for those marginal to the community and thus in danger of being excluded from basic resources, is mandated both as a response to the needs of those persons and as a response to God’s salvific care for the people of Israel.
For Christians, to be generous is to be conformed not just to Christ but also to the loving divine Parent, whose sacrificial self-gift into the world makes possible human fellowship in the divine life; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The apostle Paul regarded generosity (as expressed in the gifts of other Christian churches to the Jerusalem church) as a proof of the genuine character of Christian love. For Paul, this love is exemplified by Christ who, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor” (2 Corinth. 8.9). Generosity involves giving beyond one’s means, though Paul also notes that those now giving out of their abundance may at some point be in need and be the recipients of the generosity of others.
Generosity was also a virtue in the classical pagan context. It is the third of the virtues of character discussed by Aristotle, following on the heels of courage and temperance. The generous person, for Aristotle, is one who gives of his or her wealth in a way that achieves a mean between wastefulness and covetousness. The generous person does not give indiscriminately, but seeks to give in a way that is good and fine. This, in turn, requires giving to the right people, in the right amounts, at the right time, with pleasure, and without looking out for oneself. Aristotle suggests that giving to those who lack good character, or to those who respond with flattery, is not true generosity. Generosity is proportionate to one’s resources, so it is not contingent on possession of great wealth. However, it is closely allied to the virtue of magnificence, which for Aristotle does involve large-scale giving for worthy ends, in particular those that benefit the community as a whole.
Thomas Aquinas, whose thought represents the peak of medieval scholasticism, absorbed much of Aristotle’s account of generosity into his own account of liberality, but his treatment focuses on the way that freedom from attachment to money and possessions makes possible the good use of these external goods. Liberality is not a species of justice, even though it is discussed under the heading of justice; it does not give another what is properly speaking his, that is, due to him, but gives another what is one’s own. Like Aristotle, Aquinas suggests that there are more and less fitting ways in which to give of one’s wealth.
The heart of Aquinas’ account of giving, though, is found not in his discussion of liberality, which focuses on the giver’s disposition toward wealth, but in his discussion of the outward acts of charity, notably beneficence and the giving of alms to the poor. Most fundamentally, these acts are significant because they are a way of being conformed to God, whose nature is self-communicative goodness. The mutual love of the divine Persons is expressed outward in the creation and redemption of the world. Human beings are called to respond in gratitude to God’s love by loving God and one another. In acts of beneficence we seek to do good toward others in ways that emulate the good that God has done and is doing for us. To give simply in order to receive a return is not charity but cupidity, a form of selfishness. Aquinas insists that these acts of charity should in principle extend to all, in the sense that we should be ready to do good to anyone at all, including strangers and enemies. Noting the limitations of human agency, however, he argues that our beneficence should ordinarily focus on those who are nearest and dearest to us on the one hand, and on those whose needs are most urgent, on the other. Aquinas recognizes that these claims may conflict, and that prudential judgment will be required in order to determine how one’s acts of beneficence should be directed in any concrete situation.
Today, we associate the word “charity” primarily with charitable giving to the poor. Care for the poor, together with widow and orphan and prisoner, have always been central activities of Christian churches. Generosity was not simply a virtue of individuals but a corporate responsibility, institutionalized in myriad ways. In the sixteenth century, a fundamental shift toward centralized organization of poor relief took place across Europe. This shift has at times been seen as a corruption of true generosity, as in the widespread chorus of praise for voluntary private giving in the eighteenth-century. The challenge has been to preserve, within corporate forms of charity, both governmental and non-governmental, church-related and non-church-related, some element of personal care and spontaneous gift.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” author=”John Wesley”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Love is when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own.” author=”H. Jackson Brown, Jr.”/]
DONATING RETIREMENT FUNDS TO HELP VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENTS
Carol Landau, a former city clerk for Lighthouse Point, Fla., began donating tens of thousands of dollars to volunteer fire departments after she was diagnosed as terminally ill, The Sun-Sentinel reports. Landau had been saving money for her retirement, but when she received the news, she began paying for equipment and protective gear. She sent the Odum, Ga., volunteers an $11,200 check, for example — far more than the $9,800 they ordinarily have to work with each year. “We consider her an angel to us, and that’s my whole community,” the chief of the volunteer fire department in Ludowici, Ga., told the newspaper. Landau has no children, and has been told by her doctor that she might not survive this year. “I want it to go where it will do good for people for years to come,” she told the Sun-Sentinel, referring to her retirement savings. “Years ago, I decided I wanted my epitaph to be: My life made a positive difference.”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” author=”Mitch Albom”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” author=”Albert Pine”/]
WHERE DOES IT END?
There is a story about a wealthy farmer who was once offered all the land he could walk on in a day, provided he came back by sundown to the point where he started. To get a new start, early the next morning the farmer started covering ground quickly because he wanted to get as much land as he could. Even though he was tired, he kept going all afternoon because he didn’t want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to gain more wealth.
Late in the afternoon he realized the condition he had to fulfill to get the land was to get back to the starting point by sundown. His greed had gotten him far enough. He started his return journey, keeping an eye on how close he was to sundown. The closer it got to sundown, the faster he ran. He was exhausted, out of breath and pushed himself beyond the point of endurance. He collapsed upon reaching the starting point and died. He did make it before sundown. He was buried and all the land he needed was a small plot.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” author=”Ralph Waldo Emerson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee.” author=”Ralph Waldo Emerson”/]
Why we give, or don’t give.
Generous impulses often are described in fundraising appeals, conversation and greeting cards as coming “from the heart.” In fact, the origins of giving probably are deep in the brain’s circuitry.
Exactly how the complicated workings of the brain stimulate or suppress giving and how families, co-workers and values affect generosity remain a mystery despite years of study.
Christian Smith, a Notre Dame sociology professor, hopes to unravel the physiological and behavioral mechanisms that make people generous — or not: Why do some people give blood? Why do some people go out of their way to help strangers?
The explanations, he says, will provide insights into “the cogs and wheels that form people’s thinking and desires: feelings, relationships, social networks.” Researchers are exploring the connection between parts of the brain that support parental caregiving and generosity and examining whether people who have strong connections with others are more likely to give.
Ultimately, Smith says, the research should help define how people can become more generous, leading to improved mental health, and help organizations that depend on generous people to tailor their messages.
Lisa Dietlin, a Chicago philanthropic adviser and author of the book Making a Difference: 365 Tips, Ideas and Stories to Change Your World, says science is a tool that can “accelerate giving, but it won’t be a creator” of it. “I still think it’s about people having relationships with people and sharing their stories about why their cause is so important,” she says.
Feeling the ‘warm glow
There are some well-established theories about generosity. More than two decades ago, economist James Andreoni theorized that people who give experience internal satisfaction that he calls the “warm glow.” Other researchers call it “helper’s high” — a physical sensation that increases feelings of self-worth and makes people want to give again.
Smith says some facts about generosity are known:
- There are different kinds of giving. People give for strategic, altruistic, sentimental, impulsive, habitual or ideological reasons.
- People who are religious tend to give more.
- People who have more money don’t necessarily donate more. The opposite is often true.
- Generosity is good for you: Senior citizens who volunteer live longer.
- Holiday giving often is strategic and motivated more by year-end tax deductions than the sentiments of the season.
- People who plan donations give more than those who don’t.
- Guilt isn’t a great motivator.
Those conclusions, based on studies that ask people why they do or don’t give, are the easy part. Understanding what’s going on in people’s brains or their environment that prompts them to act the way they do is more complex.
A hormone’s impact
Paul Zak, founder of Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Neuroeconomics Studies in Claremont, Calif., is not part of the Notre Dame project, but he is investigating his own theories.
His focus is on oxytocin, a hormone produced in the pituitary gland and the brain that is released during childbirth and as people bond. After studying oxytocin’s ability to amplify feelings of trust, he began to explore its ability to spark generosity.
In one experiment, Zak and his team gave an oxytocin nasal spray to half his subjects and salt water to the rest, then had them play a game that required them to decide whether or not to give money away.
Oxytocin increased generosity by 80%, he says.
Parts of the brain, including the amygdala and subgenual cortex, have receptors that are activated by oxytocin, Zak says. The subgenual cortex makes people feel good when they are doing something positive such as giving, he says, and the amygdala controls feelings of safety and fear.
Finding generosity’s roots won’t lead to manipulation, he says. “We’re not going to spray oxytocin in the air … but increased happiness is a benefit to people who give, and we all want to be around generous people.”
Scientists say that discovering the reasons people give and using those findings to generate more generosity is good for everyone.
“If I become somebody who is a giving person, that is how I self-identify,” says Jessica Collett, a Notre Dame social psychologist. “It can influence everything I do.”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. ” author=”Mother Teresa”/]
THE BOY IN THE ICE CREAM SHOP
One day, a ten-year-old boy went to an ice cream shop, sat at a table and asked the waitress, “How much is an ice-cream cone?” She said, “seventy-five cents.” The boy started counting the coins he had in his hand. Then he asked how much a small cup of ice-cream was. The waitress impatiently replied, “sixty five cents.” The boy said, “I will have the small ice-cream cup.” He had his ice-cream, paid the bill and left. When the waitress came to pick up the empty plate, she was touched. Underneath were ten cent coins as tip.
The little boy had consideration for the waitress before he ordered his ice-cream. He showed sensitivity and caring. He thought of others before himself. If we all thought like the little boy, we would have a great place to live. Show consideration, courtesy, and politeness. Thoughtfulness shows a caring attitude.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Be generous with kindly words, especially about those who are absent.” author=”Johann Wolfgang von Goethe”/]
RETURNING A $4000 ENGAGEMENT RING
Billy Ray Harris, a man who frequently panhandled in Kansas City, Mo., was surprised to find a diamond engagement ring in his cup one day. A woman named Sarah Darling had taken off her ring and put it in her coin purse, and later dumped the change from her purse into his cup, USA Today reports. Harris took the ring to a jeweler, who offered him $4,000. But he didn’t sell, choosing instead to wait in case Darling came back. She did, and he gave her the ring. “My grandfather was a reverend,” Harris said, according to USA Today. “He raised me from the time I was 6 months old and thank the good Lord, it’s a blessing, but I do still have some character.” Darling was so moved that she went public with Harris’ good deed, establishing a fund in his name. It raised $185,000. The best part? Harris’ younger sister Robin, who hadn’t talked to her brother in more than a decade, saw the report and was able to reunite Harris with his four siblings.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.” author=”Frank A. Clark”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” author=”Martin Luther King, Jr.”/]
THE PRECIOUS STONE
There was once a wise woman traveling in the mountains who found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and she opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked if she might give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But only a few days later he came back to return the stone to the woman who had given it to him.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I’m giving it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. I want you to give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” author=”Kahlil Gibran”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.” author=”Albert Camus”/]
How to be Generous Today
- Remind yourself every day of the generosity you want to not only feel, but show.
- When interacting with others, notice the things you could do to make their lives easier or happier. Even if you do not take action, awareness of your power to improve the world around you is key.
- Think of specific ways you can be good to the people you know. I.e. if a friend or family member’s name appears, list something nice you can do for that person. If it’s a co-worker or teacher, think of how you might make his or her job easier–perhaps by helping someone finish a job or working hard, so the teacher can continue with new material.
- Extend this thoughtfulness to strangers, even if all you do is smile and say hello, or let them on to the highway in front of you.
- Think about how your action impacted them, i.e., they smiled and had a pleasant moment; they were able to get to their destination on time.
- As you’re consciously generous to others, it will get easier and easier. Soon the time will come when you’re automatically generous. The natural progression is that others will be more generous to you. After all, it’s true that “what goes around, comes around.”
- Remember that generosity is not just a decision, it’s a lifestyle.
Once upon a time, a greedy, rich man hired a great mathematician. The rich man wanted the mathematician to find the best way for him to make the greatest profit in everything he did. The rich man was building a huge safe, and his greatest dream was to fill it with gold and jewels.
The mathematician was shut away for months in his study, before finally believing he had found the solution. But he soon found there were some errors in his calculations, and he started all over again.
One night he appeared at the rich man’s house, with a big smile on his face: “I found it!” he said, “My calculations are perfect.” The rich man was going on a long journey the next day, and didn’t have time to listen. He promised the mathematician he would pay him double his wages if he would take charge of the business while he was away, and put the new formulas into practice. Excited by his new discovery, the mathematician was delighted to accept.
When the rich man returned, months later, he found that all of his possessions had gone. Furious, he went to ask for an explanation from the mathematician. The mathematician calmly told him what he had done. He had given everything away to people. The rich man couldn’t believe it, but the mathematician explained it further.
“For months I analyzed how a rich man could gain the maximum benefit, but what I could do was always limited. There’s a limit to how much one man can do by himself. Then I understood the key was that many people could help us to achieve the aim. So the conclusion was that helping others was the best way to get more and more people to benefit us.”
Disappointed and furious, the greedy man stormed off, desperate at having lost everything to the hare-brained schemes of a madman. However, while he was walking away disconsolately, several neighbors ran over, worried about him. All of them had been helped when the mathematician shared out the rich man’s fortune. They felt so grateful to him that they offered him the hospitality of their houses, and anything such a special man might need. The neighbors even argued over who would get to help him.
Over the next few days, he saw the full results of what the mathematician had calculated. Wherever he went he was received with great honor, and everyone was willing to help him in whatever way they could. He realized that his not having anything had given him much, much more.
In this way, he managed to quickly set up flourishing businesses, but this time he followed the brilliant mathematician’s advice. No longer did he keep his riches in a safe, or anything like it. Instead, he shared out his fortune among a hundred friends, whose hearts he had converted into the safest, most grateful and fruitful of safes.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”generosity lies less in giving much than in giving at the right moment.” author=”Jean De La Bruyère”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”We’d all like a reputation for generosity, and we’d all like to buy it cheap.” author=”Mignon McLaughlin”/]
5 Ways to be Generous in Tough Economic Times
With prices rising and the fear of deepening recession over our heads, it’s easy to justify a little selfishness. It’s hard enough to look after our own families in these times of doubt, let alone trying to help anyone else, right?
Our communities have become so fragmented, and people are so busy with their individual concerns, that quite often they don’t even know their neighbors, let alone know how they are coping in the current uncertain economic climate.
But for our Communities to come out of this better off, we all need to give a little – or even a lot. And we are not talking money here. Peruse the list below for ideas on how you can give even when times are tough!
1. Got a Green Thumb?
If you already have a vegetable garden, consider growing extra to donate to the local foodbank or to families you know that are in need. You could donate your expertise to help start a community garden or teach your neighbors how to grow their own food. You could organize for everyone in your street to grow a different vegetable and share amongst yourselves.
2. Be Kind
Be thoughtful, try not to judge. Nobody in financial trouble specifically chose that outcome. They probably made choices along the way that made it more likely, but I doubt they woke up one morning and decided they wanted to be a statistic in the next recession. Many people are afraid at the moment. Afraid they may lose their jobs, their businesses, the things they have worked hard to accumulate. Bear this in mind during your dealings with others and be kind.
3. Are You Good with Money?
Personal Financial Management skills are sadly lacking for many people these days, and frugal living is only just coming back into fashion. If you have budgeting and frugal living down to a fine art, offer your services to others in your community. You could work with individuals, or offer classes in the evenings or weekends.
4. Got Skills?
Are there people in your community that need things done but can’t afford to pay? If you’ve got the skills to help them out, then be generous with your time and offer your services for free. It could be anything from advocacy to yard work, car repairs to home maintenance. You could even set up some sort of Time Bank or barter system.
5. Be a Good Neighbor
Help neighbors out who might be struggling. Cook them a low cost meal. Do something nice for them. Remember how nice it feels when you are down and out and someone performs a random act of kindness for you. Invaluable!
“Generosity always has admirers, but rarely imitators”
The Generous Marriage
By Tara Parker- Pope
From tribesmen to billionaire philanthropists, the social value of generosity is already well known. But new research suggests it also matters much more intimately than we imagined, even down to our most personal relationships.
Researchers from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project recently studied the role of generosity in the marriages of 2,870 men and women. Generosity was defined as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly” — like simply making them coffee in the morning — and researchers quizzed men and women on how often they behaved generously toward their partners. How often did they express affection? How willing were they to forgive?
The responses went right to the core of their unions. Men and women with the highest scores on the generosity scale were far more likely to report that they were “very happy” in their marriages. The benefits of generosity were particularly pronounced among couples with children. Among the parents who posted above-average scores for marital generosity, about 50 percent reported being “very happy” together. Among those with lower generosity scores, only about 14 percent claimed to be “very happy,” according to the latest “State of Our Unions” report from the National Marriage Project.
While sexual intimacy, commitment and communication are important, the focus on generosity adds a new dimension to our understanding of marital success. Though this conclusion may seem fairly self-evident, it’s not always easy to be generous to a romantic partner. The noted marriage researcher John Gottman has found that successful couples say or do at least five positive things for each negative interaction with their partner — not an easy feat.
“In marriage we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, child care and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate,” explains the University of Virginia’s W. Bradford Wilcox, who led the research. “Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”
Social scientists are now wondering if this virtuous cycle extends to children too. In a study of 3-year-old twins, Israeli researchers have identified a genetic predisposition toward generosity that may be further influenced by a parent’s behavior. Preliminary findings suggest that children with more-engaged parents are more likely to be generous toward others, which may bode well for their future relationships — and their parents’ too.
“We see meaningful differences in parents’ behaviors,” said Ariel Knafo, the principal investigator and a psychologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “In the long run we’d like to be able to see whether it’s children’s generosity that also makes parents more kind or the other way around. Probably it’s both.”
Do you have a generous relationship?
Top three predictors of a happy marriage among parents:
- Sexual Intimacy.
THE DRUM: AN INDIA FOLK TALE
A poor woman had only one son. She worked hard cleaning houses and grinding grain for the well-to-do families in town. They gave her some grain in return and she lived on it. But she could never afford to buy nice clothes or toys for her son. Once, when she was going to the market with some grain to sell, she asked her son, “What can I get you from the market?” He promptly replied, “A drum! Mother, get me a drum.” The mother knew she would never have enough money to buy a drum for her son. She went to the market, sold the grain, and bought some gram flour and some salt. She felt sad that she was coming home empty-handed. So when she saw a nice piece of wood on the road, she picked it up and brought it home to her son. The son didn’t know what to do with it. Yet he carried it with him when he went out to play.
An old woman was lighting her woodstove with some cow-dung patties. The fire was not catching and there was smoke all around and it made the old woman’s eyes water. The boy stopped and asked why she was crying. She said that she couldn’t light her fire and cook. The boy said, “I have a nice piece of wood and you can start your fire with it.” The old woman was very pleased, lit the fire, made some bread, and gave a piece to the boy.
He took the bread and walked on till he came upon a potter’s wife. Her child was crying and flailing his arms. The boy stopped and asked her why the child was crying. The potter’s wife said the child was hungry and she had nothing in the house to give him. The boy gave the bread in his hand to the hungry child, who ate it eagerly and stopped crying. The potter’s wife was grateful to the boy and gave him a pot.
When he walked on, he came to the river, where he saw a washerman and his wife quarreling. The boy stopped and asked the man why he was scolding and beating his wife. The washerman said, “This woman broke the only pot we had. Now I’ve nothing to boil my clothes in before I wash them.” The boy said, “Here, don’t quarrel, take this pot and use it.” The washerman was very happy to get a large pot. He gave the boy a coat in return.
The boy walked on. He soon came to a bridge, where he saw a man shivering in the cold without so much as a shirt on him. He asked the man what had happened to his shirt, and the man said, “I was coming to the city on this horse. Robbers attacked me and took everything, even my shirt.” The boy said, “Don’t worry. You can have this coat.” The man took the coat and said, “You’re very kind, and I want to give you this horse.”
The boy took the horse, and very soon he ran into a wedding party with the musicians, the bridegroom, and his family, but all of them were sitting under a tree with long faces. The boy stopped and asked why they looked so depressed. The bridegroom’s father said, “We’re all set to go in a wedding procession. But we need a horse for the bridegroom. The man who was supposed to bring it hasn’t arrived. The bridegroom can’t arrive on foot. It’s getting late, and we’ll miss the auspicious hour for the wedding.” So the boy offered them his horse, and they were delighted. When the bridegroom asked him what he could do in return, the boy said, “You can give me something: that drum your musician is carrying.” The bridegroom had no trouble persuading the drummer to give the drum to the boy. The drummer knew he could easily buy another with the money he was going to get.
The boy now rushed home to his mother, beating his new drum, and told her how he got it, beginning with a piece of wood from the roadside.
SENDING A STRANGER $500 IN GROCERY GIFT CARDS
A user on the Reddit website wrote a post last year about how his mother moved into a two-bedroom house after his parents split up. One of his siblings stays in the second bedroom, and the other sleeps in the basement. He sleeps on the sofa in the living room when he comes home from college to visit. He said his mother asked him if the new house felt like home. “I told her that I don’t need a bedroom to feel at home; she is the reason the old house felt like home, and she is the reason this house feels like home,” wrote the user, who goes by the name Spooof. Another Reddit user, touched by the post, sent Spooof two $250 gift cards to the grocery store chain Kroger (KR). “I’m still in shock that someone can make such a kind and generous gesture to a complete stranger,” Spooof wrote on Reddit. “Someday when I have the means to do so, I promise to honor this gesture by doing something similarly generous for someone else in the hopes that they will also know how this feels.”
How To Teach Your Kids Generosity
- A generous lunchbox. Every now and then, let your child take an extra cookie or snack to share with a friend as a treat, or to help out a kid who forgot to bring his lunch. You can plant the seed of sharing love with our printable lunchbox notes.
- A generous closet. When things get cluttered, have your children help clean out their closets and donate some gently-used clothing and toys to a local charity.
- Generous across the generations. If you have senior citizens in your neighborhood, opportunities to be generous abound. Let your older children go over a couple of times a month just to see if they can help with any chores. Simple things like changing light bulbs can be hard for the elderly, and they love the company of young people!
- Civic generosity. It’s important for kids to realize that not all generosity involves money. Let tweens or teens volunteer at a local animal shelter or food pantry.
- Mentoring generously. Tweens and teens have a great opportunity to give back by mentoring younger kids. Let them help out at your church, Vacation Bible School or just spend some time with a younger cousin or neighbor teaching them to pitch a baseball or braid hair in the newest style.
- International generosity. It’s great for US kids to realize at an early age how blessed they are to enjoy so many everyday luxuries when kids in third-world nations have to survive on so little. Let them develop a personal connection to another child’s needs by sponsoring someone in a third world country.
- Generous at home. Encourage your children to look for one way each week that they can help one of their siblings. It might be helping with a chore, with homework, etc.
6 year old Ryan Hreljac listened intently to his teacher’s lesson that day. What he heard was a story about a land and its people; people who were living their lives very differently from his own. They didn’t have any luxuries. They didn’t even have clean water to drink . They would have to walk miles to get clean water. Ryan wanted to do something to help them. When Ryan got home from school that day, he asked his parents to give him money for the people his teacher had told him about. Ryan’s parents told him that if he really felt that strongly about it, he could earn the money. Ryan took them up on their offer and raised $70 in 4 months doing chores for them and their neighbors. Ryan wasn’t satisfied though. He wanted $2000. That would be enough to build a well in Africa. He was determined he was going to build a well, because that’s what they needed. So, he put his next plan of action in place. He began speaking to members of area schools, clubs, and churches about his “dream well”. He captured the attention of his community and a family friend, who decided to write about his quest in the local newspaper. It wasn’t long before Ryan had the $2000 for his well. What has happened since the day he learned about the lack of drinkable water in Africa has saved the lives of thousands of people around the world. After the first well, Ryan is reported to have said that the ripple effect took over and one goal began to lead to another. Ryan now has a foundation called the Ryan’s Well Foundation, which continue to raise money to help people not only in Africa but around the world In 1998, Ryan had the desire to build a well for the people in Africa. By 2007 , Ryan’s Well Foundation had built 255 wells in 12 countries and have raised $1.5 million dollars. Ryan has also vIsited countries all around the world, some of which include Africa, Australia, China, Germany, Italy, England, The Netherlands, Mexico, Scotland, Uganda, United States, and Japan.
DONATING CLASS TRIP MONEY TO A TORNADO VICTIM’S FAMILY
Students in the Transitional Life Skills class in South Pittsburg, Tenn., worked hard to raise money for an overnight trip to Tybee Island, Ga., in 2011. Some of them had never been to the beach before, and the class was thrilled to be going.
But when they heard about a boy in Bridgepost, Ala., who died in a tornado that year, they decided to donate the $2,000 to his family instead, reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press. All of the students live below poverty level, reports Savannahnow.com.
It didn’t take long for news of their donation to get out, though, and soon the school was bombarded with offers to help the students go on that trip. They got money for the bus ride, a free two-night stay at a hotel and free restaurant meals. They had dinner with the mayor of Tybee Island, and the town named a day in their honor.
A classroom aide at the school was especially touched by one email she received during the flurry of goodwill. “It read, ‘When you love without asking, you receive without knowing,'” she told the Times Free Press. “I thought that was appropriate for the situation these kids are in.”
GANDHI AND THE COPPER COIN
Gandhi went from city to city, village to village collecting funds for the Charkha Sangh. During one of his tours he addressed a meeting in Orissa. After his speech a poor old woman got up. She was bent with age, her hair was grey and her clothes were in tatters. The volunteers tried to stop her, but she fought her way to the place where Gandhi was sitting. “I must see him,” she insisted and going up to Gandhi touched his feet. Then from the folds of her sari she brought out a copper coin and placed it at his feet. Gandhi picked up the copper coin and put it away carefully. The Charkha Sangh funds were under the charge of Jamnalal Bajaj. He asked Gandhi for the coin but Gandhi refused. “I keep cheques worth thousands of rupees for the Charkha Sangh,” Jamnalal Bajaj said laughingly “yet you won’t trust me with a copper coin.” “This copper coin is worth much more than those thousands,” Gandhi said. “If a man has several lakhs and he gives away a thousand or two, it doesn’t mean much. But this coin was perhaps all that the poor woman possessed. She gave me all she had. That was very generous of her. What a great sacrifice she made. That is why I value this copper coin more than a crore of rupees.”