Giving More, Wanting Less: Cultivating Generosity
I once read that generosity is managing your resources well so that you can give to others in need. I thought about that. How well did I manage my resources? How purposefully did I give to others? I decided to do a little experiment. Last Christmas, I chose to set aside a portion of our Christmas-present money for people we didn't know. Instead of spending all of our budget on ourselves, we reserved some. With this money, we bought gift cards and small Christmas bags filled with frosted cookies and treats. The kids and I headed to our local task force which helps people in need of groceries. They are able to come in a couple of times a year if they find themselves in a difficult situation. We parked our car and waited. We waited for people to come out with a few bags of groceries. When they did, we approached them with our gift cards and Christmas bags. What happened next stunned me. As we handed them the gift cards worth $50, tears began to stream. Immediately. All 5 recipients began to cry. Weep. A few of them just completely lost it. These were people who found themselves in a situation which scared them. They couldn't afford groceries. And the gift of $50 broke them.
This impacted me for months. If $50 could mean that much to someone, what more could I do? Could I manage our family resources even better so that we could do more? What if we could give every month meaningful gifts to people that really needed it. What if instead of passing by people with signs, we gave them something meaningful? Every time. What if I became so observant of those around me that I could tell when someone needed something--even without a sign? Could I actually live out the definition of generosity? I decided to look harder at our budget. With five children and college looming, it is easy to look away. After all, we have our own needs. But, something about those faces at the task force kept coming back to me. I wouldn't react like that if someone handed me $50. I would think it was nice but it wouldn't reduce me to tears. I needed to do more.
Where would I find extra money? After thinking I was doing a pretty good job at the monthly grocery bill, I decided this might be the area where I could do better. I found an idea online where I might be able to save money by shopping one time per month. I tried it. I not only ended up saving money, I cut my bill in half! Immediately I had several hundred dollars to give. I worried that I would want to use the money for our family. It seems that there is always something that comes up where money is needed. However, the definition of generosity became something important to me.
I wanted to look for opportunities to give.
To notice people in need.
To meet people where their need was.
This came in so many unexpected ways. Elderly people who needed a smile and a gentle reminder that they are special...flowers.
A homeless man who needed some small items and for someone to treat him as a worthwhile individual...bag filled with personal products and a gift card.
The single mother who works so hard who needed someone to notice...a handwritten card with a gift certificate especially for her.
They are all around me...and you. Can we live out the definition of generosity? What would happen if we did? For me, my mindset has changed. Instead of thinking about more things for me, I ponder ideas where we could give. Instead of filling my mind with marketing company advertisements, I am inspired by videos of others doing amazing things for strangers.
This month I am doing another experiment. It involves you. If you have a meaningful idea of how you could give to others, tell me about it. I want to hear it. At the end of the challenge, I will give the winner of my choice $250 for them to implement their idea. In return, send me an update and pictures of how you were able to use the gift of giving. Let's make a difference for those that need it right now. Click on the "Gift of Giving" button on the main page for the contest and where to send me your idea. And please share it. Perhaps we can encourage others to do the same!