Willy and I want to be generous people. It’s something we’ve learned a bit about already, but are still cultivating. Working for a charity, we live off the generosity of others. We know first hand how important it is. Even before we started working with this organization, we desired to be generous people. We have benefitted immensely in giving our money away, even when we felt like we really needed it.
How I learned to be more generous
I used to be a bit stingy. One summer as a student I had very little. My job search had been unfruitful up until that point. I had rashly invited people to supper, not realizing I was poor. I was going to have to share the very little I had. Providentially, I came across this verse in the book of Proverbs:
“Don’t eat with people who are stingy; don’t desire their delicacies. ‘Eat and drink,’ they say, but they don’t mean it. They are always thinking about how much it costs.” Proverbs 23:6-7
I didn’t want to be that person. I wanted to be able to enjoy the people I was with, not resenting them for gobbling up my last pennies. So I went ahead with the meal and chose to be happy about giving what little I had. To this day, I don’t think they knew I was in such a bad position financially, and I’m happy they got to eat blissfuly unaware. We had a lot of fun that day.
Just like anything, you can practice generosity. It might hurt a lot at first. You might break out into sweats thinking about the $4 latté they ordered. You might want to bail on your idea of buying theirs once you realize they ordered a Venti latte with 7 pumps of chocolate. You thought they’d get a coffee like usual. Go ahead and buy it. Maybe that $9 latte is all you can afford in terms of extra spending that month. Try it.
Consider giving $50, $100, $200 to a cause you have always valued, but have yet to give; Or, consider giving monthly to something that deeply concerns you.
What you will gain
1. You will value what you have more. You will realize that you can manage while helping others out. It helps us to be thankful and also to identify with those who give in order to make our charity work.
2. It positions you to live more simply. Some people may really have to pinch pennies in order to give to causes they value. I’m learning that penny pinching isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes I feel stressed if there is little (or no) margin in our budget. The stress comes from forgetting that we have budgeted precisely in order to save, give, and enjoy. We are working towards all of our financial goals, including the goal of “Being generous.”
3. You will be the one in control (rather than it controlling you). Willy and I don’t want to be controlled by anything, especially money. So in order to control it, we give it away. We are learning to give it away especially when we feel like we can’t. This helps remind us that it wont rule our lives, we rule it. It helps us to remember that we have it good. We have things to be thankful for. We can always be generous.
- It’s a lot easier to start when you’re young (and idealistic). If you build the habit before you have a mortgage and kids, you will grow used to giving money away rather than spending it on yourself!
- Check your heart. There are different strategies to managing your money. I chose to give to charities while still paying off my student loan. Not everyone would do it that way. On the other hand, it’s easy to say “I’ll give to charities when I pay off my mortgage” which is (for some) the equivalent to “Never.” Check your heart! Are you avoiding it because you’re a grinch, or because you’re convinced you need to get your financial life in order first?
- You can enjoy life (lattés! wine!) and still give. No one says that living like a pauper in order to give everything is morally better than enjoying life and giving. You can be a grinch in both situations. “God loves a cheerful giver!” (And if you don’t believe in God, put “everyone” in its place. Or something.)
Have you experienced the joy of giving, even when you didn’t have a lot? What are your fears related to being generous? What Next Actions can you take to opening up your heart and wallet?