What sort of world could we create through the simple, powerful decision to live generously? How would our lives be different if we gave more love, kindness, time, appreciation, forgiveness, courage, respect, or humor – to ourselves and to those around us? I think we would be happier, healthier individuals who could create a better world for generations to come.
The thing that I love most about generosity is that it creates a ripple effect. It spreads out into the world – into our families, our communities, and our work – and has immeasurable effects. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to witness the impact of our giving and to experience the reward of making someone’s day, week, or year. Other times, our best and most perfect giving opportunity might be as simple as a smile or a compliment, and we may never know the difference it made in the life of another. It’s such a wonderful feeling knowing that not only do we have the power to positively change the lives around us, but we also can impact the lives of strangers we will never come in contact with. It creates a sense of community in a world that sometimes feels disconnected and selfish.
Brad Formsma’s book “I Like Giving” shares inspirational stories of people giving, as well as practical suggestions about creating a lifestyle of generosity. While I have always been a supporter of random acts of kindness, I love the idea of choosing to be generous on a daily basis. Formsma explains that “when generosity becomes your lifestyle, your life will take on a new glow. You will feel appreciated. You will feel worthy. You will feel celebrated, and you will get that deep sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing you enrich other people’s lives. When giving moves from an occasional activity to the very essence of your life, you start experiencing the fullness of life at a whole different level.” He also shares the following advice:
- Look for ways to give that are in line with your heart.
- Give with no strings attached. Giving to others when there is no obligation reminds people that they are inherently worthy; they didn’t have to earn it.
- Don’t let the occasional person who abuses the goodwill of others ruin your giving and deter you.
- Sometimes people don’t need money or skills or advice. They just need someone to hear their stories and witness their lives.
- Giving is meant to enrich someone else, not to draw attention to that person’s need. When true generosity is your motivation, you’ll find the best way to give while honoring the receiver.
- Receiving can be harder than giving, because receiving reminds us that we need other people. When someone meets a legitimate need that we are unable to meet on our own, we are humbled.
- We often look at the great needs in the world and see all the things we can’t do, which keeps us from doing the things we can do.
In honor of National Volunteer Month, I want to encourage you to not only get involved on campus and in your community, but to start cultivating a lifestyle of generosity. You don’t have to make massive life changes to become a gift to other people. You can start with who you are, right where you are, right now. Take a minute to think about your life. How could you incorporate generosity into your daily interactions with people?