Is it possible to be generous when you're broke or close to it?
How can you possibly give to others when you're not sure if you're going to have enough to cover your own expenses?
I've wanted to be more generous for a long time, and I'm grateful to now be in a position where I can be more generous. But there were times when all of my measly income was going toward student loans and living expenses. I cut all my extraneous spending for the better part of a year to knock out my debt. And that made generosity hard.
You see, I've always interpreted "generosity" as "giving money." While that's certainly true in some cases, the two concepts aren't the exact same. Generosity can take on more than just one form.
1. the quality of being kind and generous:
"I was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and neighbors"
liberality, lavishness, magnanimity, munificence, openhandedness, free-handedness, unselfishness, kindness, benevolence, altruism, charity, big-heartedness, goodness, bounteousness (Oxford Dictionaries)
While many of us automatically think of giving money when we hear the word "generosity," that's not the only way we can express generosity.
One of my friends recently had a baby, and she and her husband expressed a great amount of gratitude for the kindness of others who brought them food.
When I was in college, a couple of my friends lived in a dorm building that started on fire in the middle of the night, and we offered them our couch when they needed a place to crash, and then when the damage was determined to be too bad for them to move back, my roommate and I let one of the girls move into our double room with us.
She was unbelievably grateful to us-- both for our hospitality and our generosity. Even though we didn't provide for her in any way financially, we gave what we had-- a little bit of extra room, willingness to move furniture around, even taking out our couch to put in a bed for her, flexibility in figuring it all out, and an openness to a new roommate for the remainder of the term.
As you can see (and as the definition includes above), generosity is more about kindness, free-handedness, big-heartedness, and unselfishness. It means holding whatever you have --whether it's money, time, food, skills, clothing, shelter, or something else-- with open hands, willing to pour it out and share it with others whenever and wherever you can.
Maybe you're in a season of life right now where there's too much month left at the end of your paycheck. We could talk about whether there are ways to cut costs in various areas, but that's not where I want to focus today. Because maybe there aren't any ways for you to cut costs.
That doesn't mean there aren't ways for you to be generous.
Let's choose to think of generosity as more than just giving money.
Think of it instead as giving yourself, in some way, shape, or form, to help someone else.
What do you have that you could give to someone else? It could be physical possessions that you could give to a friend in need or bring to a shelter. Or maybe it's time you could spend volunteering with a nonprofit, in your kid's school, or with your local church. Perhaps you have valuable skills you could teach others?
We all have something to give!
During this "season of giving," it can be hard to express generosity if our pockets are empty. We think the only way to show people we care is to buy them presents, the only way to support a worthy cause is to write a check or drop our change into the red buckets outside the store.
But that's not the only way to be generous. Generosity doesn't stop at the boundary of our bank accounts.
How can we be big-hearted in this season? How can we hold our blessings with open hands, allowing ourselves the opportunity and blessing of sharing what we have with others?
My family is once again planning to go to Feed My Starving Children in a few weeks to pack meals to feed people in developing countries. And we participated in my church's winter clothing drive to provide warmer gear for the children at the school where we meet every week.
I shopped intentionally for my friends and family, picking out gifts I knew they would love that also gave back in some way. I love shopping through organizations that provide for women who are coming out of trafficking or building up a business to provide for their families or rebuilding a community, and I wrote a post a little while back about organizations that do just that, so if you're looking for some good gift ideas, check it out!
I'm also working to be more generous with my time in this season of chaos and busyness. I talked to a friend a couple weeks ago who expressed so much gratitude to me for "taking time out of my busy day" to talk to her when she needed a friend. I was a little sad that she felt I could have been too busy for her, but encouraged in realizing it was a small gift I could give her that meant so much more than it "cost," so to speak.
How can you be generous with what you have? Do you have any creative ways to impart generosity? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!