Yesterday, while driving with my niece Makayla, we were stopped at a stoplight and approached by a woman asking for change. I slipped a couple bucks into her cup and she warmly issued a “God Bless You.” Just then Makayla proudly exclaimed that “[she] loves to give to the homeless,” and in just that moment, I was blessed.
I confess that I haven’t always been generous. In fact, it’s a new virtue that I’m consciously striving to adopt. You see, I didn’t grow up with a ton of “stuff,” but I did grow up with parents who readily spent time with my siblings and me. We’d spend our weekends and summer months taking long walks to the beach, Chicago museums, libraries and festivals. We knew we could count on our parents for an abundance of time… but not money.
As a result of our limited financial resources, I rarely witnessed my parents giving anything away. I watched as they squeezed miracles out of their rigid monthly budget, meticulously sowing the seeds of necessity into our young lives…but never excess. At that time they weren’t able to give much, and the ensuing fear of not having enough ensured that in the future, regardless of the circumstance, they would cling to that same mindset.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I too adopted the same guiding principles of sowing “sparingly,” even when I had financial excess. Sure we can hang out for birthday drinks, but I can’t buy drinks (I’m saving for a fancy new coat). I’m so sorry about your broken heart, lets’ talk about it over lunch, (but we’re totally going dutch). Come over to my place for dinner some time (but remember it’s a potluck)! I’d gladly give of my time, but not my treasure… and it was stifling!
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not an advocate of reckless giving. Your family should not go hungry while you treat friends to breakfast, lunch and dinner. But breaking the fear of not having enough comes with believing and acting as if you already have enough. As I’ve watched family, friends and acquaintances freely give, I’ve realized that the talent they freely give the most, is the talent they receive in return. I’ve witnessed the poor get rich (and the rich get richer) and the older (who volunteer their time) look younger. Likewise, I’ve seen the rich get poorer and the young (and self-absorbed) look older. You reap what you sow!
I’m so thankful for that moment with Makayla. During a time when I’m actively teaching my girls the importance of sharing, it reminded me of the importance of living and demonstrating that very same principle of generosity; the only guiding principle that will lead to a life of abundance and overflow.
I’m still a work in progress, but I’ve got a recovery plan. It includes mantras, some cash and an updated calendar of events, and everyday I witness these white-knuckled clenched fists open a little bit further.
Are you practicing generosity? Are you reaping the returns?
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