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June 2014 - Generosity Gameplan™

summer vegetablesAs we are coming into the season of fresh summer produce from the garden, I’ve been thinking about a different kind of appetite: the hunger to connect for good.

In their book Living the Call, William J. Simon Jr. and Michael Novak encourage Catholic laity to see lives of service differently. I think they have tapped into a hunger that transcends Catholic lay ministry and put it front and center into our lives of generosity.

Michael Novak describes this familiar longing: “They want to love their neighbors better, the poor much better. They see around them so much pain, enervation, weariness, dryness of heart, sheer boredom and emptiness. They confront a spiritual desert all around them under the merry-go-round of the luxurious shopping malls—and they feel that desert advancing in their own souls.”

Many of us have experienced countless hours of volunteering and maybe the deep satisfaction of making sacrificial charitable gifts. We have sometimes been moved by someone’s profound act of generosity or heard a rousing sermon on stewardship.

Yet there is still a scarcity of connection. We are not tuned in to our own hearts or the hearts of others when we give.

Acknowledging our hunger to do good in a heartfelt way is an important step out of the Generosity Gaps. To turn that hunger into action, we need to feel its discomfort and let it move us.

My book Connected for Good is full of stories of people who got in touch with their hunger and found creative ways to satisfy that longing to do good. What will your story be?

You might wonder what your happiness has to do with generosity. Most of us give because we were raised to be generous and because we believe that sharing our blessings is the right thing to do. We probably don’t think too much about whether giving makes us happy or not.

I recently watched again a video of my friend, Dr. Dan Siegel, where he talks about how we feel when we give to others vs. spending on ourselves.

I love knowing that generosity has such a positive effect on our happiness, because it means that we are rewarded and encouraged to keep giving.

I would also expand on what Dan is saying by pointing out that there are two kinds of giving: transactional and transformational.

If we give solely so we can get something in exchange (recognition, approval, even a tax break), that’s transactional giving. And I believe that transactional giving can actually make us unhappy, because it is disconnected from our own heart’s desires to do good and disconnected from the people we give to. It doesn’t have that component of eudaimonia that Dan talks about.

But if our main motive in giving is to connect with others to create change, that’s transformational generosity. What we get back—a sense of happiness and purpose—is not the reason we give, but it’s a wonderful side effect and spurs us on to do more.

I have known people whose giving doesn’t make them happy because it’s just one more obligation. I wrote Connected for Good so that you can create a Generosity Gameplan that reconnects you with the joy and satisfaction of giving from your heart’s desire.