I grew up in a home centered on generosity. My parents were gracious hosts and our friends were always welcome there. We rarely went over to their homes as it was so much fun to have them over to ours for bonfires, pizza parties, sleepovers, trampoline jumping, horse rides, etc.
I can remember after a gathering when I was college-aged, my father gave me some wise counsel. “Don’t be cheap when you’re hosting. Give your best. Offer the best sodas-not the cheap store-brand ones. Buy more food than you need so you don’t run out. Never give less than your best.”
When my husband and I were married, we were broke, young, in love, and still in college. I had just graduated, moved 1,000 miles to his college town for his final year of school, and we both had part-time minimum wage jobs. Half our income went to rent. We were under-prepared with the food for our wedding reception and had to quickly cut the cake as people were leaving. His parents surprised us one night with yellow grocery bags full of food that they’d just purchased to stock our pantry. We were stunned, not knowing how to ask for this help, nor how to say thank you.
Inside, we longed to be generous, but we didn’t seem to have the ability. About five years ago, our relatives studied the Dave Ramsey financial plan and shared their budget tips with us. We no longer had to guess where our account would be when the bills came in, but had a spending plan. We were excited to be able to create a category for giving within the budget.
I cannot tell you the joy we have had when spending that particular column of our budget! It is money that is disallowed for personal use, but only for helping others, and there have been moments where we have had an opportunity to help someone and we actually got to help! There are many ways to be giving, and financial gifting or purchasing for others is a very small part of it.
What does giving really do? It helps us to take our eyes off of ourselves. That is a real gift—and where the “more blessed to give than to receive” comes in. If you, like me, struggle with Seasonal Affective Depression and get SAD every winter, you need something else to focus on. Giving helps you to be thankful for what you have, helps you to be less depressed and less anxious about your concerns, as you are not dwelling on them when you’re focused on meeting another’s needs.
Need help with holiday depression? Serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Have some extra money? There are often programs for Seniors or for disadvantaged children that you can purchase gifts—granting Christmas to somebody who otherwise would go unnoticed this season.
Have you lost a loved one? It can be a dark time, and your experience may give you the ability to comfort another experiencing loss. Give a gift in memoriam, that their name is not forgotten, but honored.
Shovel snow for an elderly neighbor, bake some cookies for servicemen and women, or for your local emergency service people.
These are just a few of the ways you can give, but please realize that this is not an obligation. It is precisely because you are free to give (or not) that it becomes so rewarding! You can spend your time and money however you choose, but when you die, you will not have it. Are you a hoarder? An investor? A collector?
Over the last week, we have had a few opportunities to be involved with people that we barely knew or did not know at all, and those moments will last with me, because instead of just spending money, we made an investment in kindness. There is good in the world, and perhaps the good that we long to see must start within us and come out for others to see as well.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
If you have never seen the joy on a child’s face when they receive something they didn’t know or think they would receive, I hope you will get that opportunity. There are always needs around us, and if we would lift our heads above our pain and reach out to help others, we may find ourselves receiving help in return.
It may be as simple as paying for some of the groceries for a person behind you or a hot coffee for a shivering soul on the street, but remember that kindness goes against our selfish nature and will give you more satisfaction than 1,000 “likes” on social media. It will be remembered for a lifetime.
Did you think of anyone as you read this post? Have you been touched by kindness and have desire to “pay it forward”? We’d love to hear your story!
Cover Photo credit: http://www.moneymanagement.org/~/media/CharityGuide.JPG