We may have generously placed money into kettles and envelopes, given food and toys to local agencies, and sent donations to charities over this holiday season. However, it is easy to let this practice of giving to others slip away during other times of the year.
As Winston Churchill stated, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Generosity is freely sharing what you have with others without expectation of reward or return. The giving can take many forms: money, possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, good thoughts, a smile, a kind word, appreciation, honour and hope. As Mother Teresa stated, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
Generosity derives from the Latin word generōsus, which means “of noble birth.” In this way generosity came to represent traits of character and action associated (whether true or not) with the ideals of nobility: gallantry, courage, strength, richness, gentleness, and fairness.
During the 18th Century, the meaning of generosity evolved into the contemporary meaning of kindness, open–handedness, and liberality in the giving of money and possessions to others.
In 2009, the University of Notre Dame used a $5 million grant to establish the Science of Generosity initiative. The project acknowledges that generosity is a learned character trait that involves both attitude and action.
Generosity is not a random idea or haphazard behavior but rather, as the initiative states “in its mature form, it is a basic, personal, moral orientation to life.” Furthermore, by showing generosity, many vices are simultaneously excluded (e.g., greed, fear, meanness).
Although the intent of generosity is to simply increase the well-being of others, the act does bring benefit to the giver. In The Paradox of Generosity, authors Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson noted a consistent and even strong relationship between generosity and five factors: better physical health, greater happiness, greater purpose in life, avoidance of depression, and increased personal growth.
To keep the spirit of generosity throughout the year, set up an automatic contribution to a charity or start a loonie or toonie jar for an agency of choice. Designate an easily accessible box/bag to regularly place items to be donated. Buy extra food/items with the sole purpose of donating.
Volunteer, take time to chat with others, rake leaves or shovel snow for a neighbour, and give that encouraging thought or smile to someone in need.
Even when we think we don’t have enough to share, giving when we have limited resources shows an attitude of abundance and a trust that there is enough for all. As the Buddhist author Allan Lokos stated, “It is a powerful practice to be generous when you are the one feeling in need.” Whether this is a can of soup or a thoughtful comment we all benefit; with Anne Frank noting, “No one has ever become poor by giving