That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing. ~Simone de Beauvoir
The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving. ~Albert Einstein
The holiday shopping frenzy has begun! I am willing to bet that almost all of us have walked out to our mailbox only to find multiple Christmas catalogs and “coupon books,” alerting us of all the newest gadgets and clothes we need to buy this season. Everywhere we go, we are inundated with messages that tell us we need to buy more, more, more. If you ask me, this materialistic mindset takes the joy out of the holidays!
To me, the greatest joy comes from the giving of ourselves—not in the STUFF.
People who live generously—not just with their money, but with their whole person (time, talents, friendship)—deserve special admiration. They’re not motivated by fame, fortune, or scoring the newest iPhone on launch day, but rather by joyful service. Their qualities of generosity, empathy, compassion, and kindness make them inspiring treasures to us all. And although those values tend to get more press during Thanksgiving and Christmas, they are values we should all aspire to live by all year long.
Generosity is a paradox. The culture around us screams materialism and commercialism. Buy. Accumulate. Indulge. However, there is a whole world out there that desperately needs what we (yes, you) have to offer. It invites us to give, serve, help, and empower. The paradox of generosity is this: the more we give, the more we get! It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. We find our life by losing it. We win by putting others first. We gain by giving away. And, our greatest memories are of the gifts we gave rather than the ones we received.
This kind of generosity requires sacrifice—not just financial, but personal. Yes, it can be stretching and uncomfortable. But slowly, we begin to realize there’s more to life than what we own and can hold onto. We don’t take those things with us when our time is up.
Have you ever wanted to change the world? This is where it starts. In fact, how you eventually impact the world will be driven not merely by what you have to offer but what you choose to offer. It’s the ultimate generosity test, isn’t it?
What do you uniquely have to offer the world? There are many different avenues that can allow you to allocate your personal resources to serve others. As you reflect on how you can live generously this Thanksgiving week, consider these three questions:
- What talents, skills, and resources do I have to offer?
- What groups or community segments (e.g., youth, elderly, homeless) do I feel most called to help?
- What organizations will allow me to use my time, talents, and treasure to help those I feel most passionately about?
Could your answers to these questions be a New Year’s resolution in the making?
What would happen in our communities if we all cultivated and demonstrated this heart of generosity and “other-centeredness” as a way of life, embodying the qualities of generosity and compassion in our everyday dealings with people? I think the world would be a more welcoming and empathetic place!
With that in mind, here are some ideas for living generously this holiday season—and throughout the year:
- Make a donation to an organization serving people and causes you are passionate about
- Look for ways to be creatively generous if you are on a limited budget. How can you give time? Attention? Acts of service? Material possessions?
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter in your city.
- Visit a nursing home or hospital. Listen to their stories, or tell some of your own. Just sit with them if that’s what brings comfort.
- Allow yourself to be interrupted without being irritated—this is a mark of a generous spirit. (Or, put down your mobile device and give the people around you your undivided attention.)
- Make yourself available to people or organizations, free of charge, for consulting on a topic on which you have expertise.
This short list of ideas just scratches the surface—you may even come up with better ones! The bottom line is this: Living generously will bring help and hope to others and immense joy to you in return. You’ll receive far more than what you give. Nothing compares with using all of you to serve and improve the world around you. This is the true spirit of the holiday season!