Life is exciting, but that doesn't mean it isn't stressful. We're bound to run into difficulties and sure to get caught in storms. And when we do, we appreciate the extended arm of a friend, offering help. Whatever form it takes, their generosity is like the sun breaking through a bank of black clouds. The only thing better than receiving generosity is offering it to others. If we can be instruments that banish gloom from others' lives, our own will be filled with purpose.
Generosity is the willingness to share freely with others. Generous people are happy because they are following nature. Just as it is the nature of the sun to nurture life, it is the nature of man to help those in need. Primitive man survived by sharing with his family and tribe the food brought back from the hunt.
The tradition of helping others is well recorded in the bible. For example, the following verses reveal that it was the custom to help the poor 3,300 years ago, "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner." (Leviticus 19:9~10)
Again, in Isaiah 58:10-11 it is written "Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too; and you will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring." The above verses imply the second reason why generous people are happy. When we freely give, we do not deplete our resources, but replenish them like an "ever-flowing spring."
The idea that the more we give, the more we will receive is a common theme in all religious traditions. And for good reason, it is based on common sense. After all, the more people we help, the larger the reservoir of possible allies in our time of need. The more people we lend a hand to, the greater our network of friends and willing assistants. If we wish to live life to the fullest, we will be generous, for as the Sanskrit Proverb says, "He who allows his day to pass by without practicing generosity and enjoying life's pleasures is like a blacksmith's bellows - he breathes but does not live."
What would you do if you won the lottery? If you are like most, chances are you would share a portion of your winnings with a charity. However, you don't have to be rich to be generous. Take, Oseola McCarty, for example. She lived a modest life in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This sixth-grade graduate worked as a washerwoman in the homes of the wealthy for 75 years. Each time she was paid for washing and ironing a load of clothes, she put a small amount into a savings account. When she was 89, she discovered she had accumulated $250,000. Believing she didn't need that much money, she gave $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi, setting up a fund to help needy African-American students.
True, when compared with the BILLIONS of dollars donated by some American philanthropists, Miss McCarty's contribution was small indeed. However, here is what Christ had to say about the matter, "And [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, 'Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.'" (Luke 21:1-4)
We don't need money to be generous; we can be generous by giving recognition, attention, praise, kindness, and love. We can be generous in thought, word, and deed. We can donate our time, knowledge, and skills. We can offer our patience, understanding, and encouragement. We can be a font of hope, a haven of peace, an oasis of joy. Neither do we have to travel far to practice generosity. We can begin at home by giving moral support to our parents, spouse, children, and siblings. We can then extend our generosity to the workplace, our community, and the world at large.
When we act generous before others, we boost our ego, but when we are generous in secret, we elevate our soul. The greater the generosity, the greater the joy experienced by both the giver and receiver. When do we offer "great" generosity? It is when we give more than we imagine we can. Also, when we give what cannot be replaced, we prove that those in need have higher value than possessions. Finally, when we are sensitive to the needs of others, we will be more concerned with the timing of our gift than the size of it.
We are often the benefactors of the generosity of others. Let's not forget to pass on the acts of kindness we receive. Or, as Henry Burton wrote:
"Have you had a kindness shown?
Pass it on; 'twas not given for thee alone,
Pass it on; Let it travel down the years,
Let it wipe another's tears,
Till in Heaven the deed appears, Pass it on."
© Chuck Gallozzi
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