The Generosity Effect


I am a firm believer that generosity is something that people can sense. When a truly generous person approaches, there is almost an aura of openness and acceptance in that person. You have a desire to talk with them and to share ideas. I have likened it to Santa Clause walking down a street and without so much as a word, states “naughty” or “nice” as each person passes by. A generous person will walk with a quicker step, head up and eyes looking outward. They are approachable. This I believe makes them much more likely to be successful and open to the opportunities that just seem to unexplainably come their way.

So what defines generosity? This is a whole different conversation. I believe that to be generous means that a person is willing to give up that which is most important to them or seemingly that which drives their decisions. For some this is money, for others it is time. For still others, it is things. If a person values money and measures their success by it, to be generous would be to give it away.  But not in an effort to buy one out of giving time.  That act would be self serving in that the giving of money for them was actually nothing more than a purchase of time for themselves. An example of this would be the fund raiser I am asked to do for a cause I am somehow involved in, take my child’s sports program. Instead of going out, spending my time and risking having to ask someone else for money, I simply buy all the books or tickets or food stuff that I or my child would have had to sell.  Don’t get me wrong, the end effect of raising the money has still been accomplished but I have not been generous in the true sense of the word and I may have even deprived my child of a valuable lesson in fund raising. If I am going to be generous with my money, then two things need to occur.  First and foremost, this needs to be, on some level, a sacrifice.  I have to feel the amount I give.  It cannot just be an insignificant amount relative to my ability to give. Second, and equally as important, the giving has to be done with no strings or expectations attached.  It is given freely to the person or organization to be used as they see fit. I have been asked by people if the biblical “give and the gift will be returned ten fold” actually holds true.  If I give with the expectation that I will get something back, maybe even ten fold, it is nothing more than bartering.  Do I believe that what you give comes back to you?  I do, if you understand that it cannot be the motivation and that you are ready to recognize that it may not come back in the same form as the gift.  Perhaps it is simply an opportunity that now comes your way.

If I take this same idea of time and material items, to”things” as I called them, the same holds true.  If time is my most valuable item, then I give my time to those who need it.  As with money, this giving of my time is not intended to benefit me but rather to help someone else benefit from the time I give. This begs to be connected to those who give money to an organization as opposed to their time. If that money is given to buy them out of giving the time, then they are merely benefiting themselves by easing their conscience.  If the money is given so that the organization’s volunteers can carry on their mission, then there is nobility in the gift. For those who value the things they own, the truly generous gift would be to give those very things they cherish to those who could benefit from them. Here it is important to note the world of Goodwill Industries and all those similar organizations. Ask yourself this, the last time I dropped items off at Goodwill, were they really usable items, or just the stuff I couldn’t even sell in the garage sale, and what value did I then claim on my tax return as my charitable donation? I suspect that Goodwill is annually strapped with tons of donated items that they then have to dispose of, sometimes at a cost to the organization. Regifting might really be a great and noble act, provided I valued the gift in the first place.

I will end where I started.  I believe that generous people lead happier, healthier and far more successful lives than those who would cling to the things valuable to them with an iron fist.  I can only receive with open hands and to give away the best of my resources will guarantee that those hands will in turn be open to receive.

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