Sep 12, 2017 at 3:23 PM
We have lived with myths about generosity for so long that we see them as truth.
I’ve often heard: “Oh that’s not generous, that’s just the way I am.” It is as if the only way that we see that making a contribution as “generous” is if we don’t want to give… but we give anyway. I wonder if we think that an act isn’t generous if it’s easy. “I’m not being generous if I would do this anyway.” Nonsense! As the alphabet is the lowest abstraction for the written word, so is the innate drive for people to contribute to someone else’s well-being the lowest abstraction for generosity. People derive meaning from contributing. We are wired for contribution not consumption. If you are contributing in small simple ways, great. Build on that to create your generous life.
Here’s another thing that I’ve noticed. When someone is building a generous life there is often a sense of shame, especially when it comes to money. “I could have given more,” “She gave more than I gave,” or even “I hated to say no to them, but I just don’t have the capacity.” Where does this come from? Perhaps it is natural to compare ourselves to others. But when we consider the notion of contributing in simple ways, with currencies other than money, like building a bridge between two people for their benefit not our own, it is easy way to build a generous life without a feeling of shame.
During the last month we have seen two major hurricanes hit the southwestern United States. In Houston, TX Jim McIngvale, well known in the area as “Mattress Mack,” owns several large furniture stores. When he saw that many were in need of a safe place to ride out the storm, he opened his stores to the public and allowed them to sleep on his inventory. “We’ve got lots of beds, we’ve got lots of food, we’ve got water and you can even bring your animals.” Many took him up on his offer. He even sent out his large trucks to bring people in. “Mattress Mack” used what he had. It was simple, yes, but a huge gesture to many, maybe even life-saving.
Remember, there are three generosity currencies, not just one. Spend your relational equity first, then volunteer with what you are best at, finally spend your money on those who match your heart’s desire to change the world.
When you consider this myth about generosity, what comes to mind? Do these thoughts help you to redefine generosity in your life?
Read my book, Connected for Good: A Gameplan for a Generous Life, to discover more stories of folks who are generosity champions, like Mattress Mack… and you!
Aug 15, 2017 at 7:36 PM
Last week in Colorado at a private ranch owned by friends a small group of people surrounded Bill to help him discern how, through his private foundation, he can help pastors with leadership development.
After about two hours of conversation during which this well informed group mapped who is doing what in this space, one of the people asked Bill, “Why do you care about pastors? Why is this so important to you?” …hoping to get a meaningful treatise on the role of pastors and the importance of leadership development. Bill’s answer, “You know, I don’t really know.”
I was fortunate to be in the room for this short conversation, and here’s the way I saw it:
– Bill and I have been close friends for 27 years and I have managed his foundation for 18 of those years. I know intimately how thousands of pastors have been helped, their churches strengthened and I have seen first hand their congregation’s flourish as a result.
– In the world of “strategic philanthropy” one would say Bill’s foundation has a “theory of change,” that states… when pastors grow their leadership capacity, churches thrive and the whole land prospers. So, help the pastors if you want the land to flourish. Sounds important doesn’t it?
But alas, like me you’ve been hypnotized by complexity just like so many generous people.
I was able to call out this moment for the group and underscore that Bill’s answer, “I don’t really know” is a way of saying that it is his heart’s desire to help in this way. He has reflected on it, studied it, tested different approaches and now he knows that this is what he is supposed to do….acts of generosity, very large or modest, driven by heart’s desire can be very strategic.
How about you? Are you hypnotized by complexity or are your acts of generosity driven by your heart’s desire?
Aug 4, 2017 at 9:45 AM
I’m a pretty independent person. And I like to be self-sufficient… to not need or ask for help. However, when someone I know is in need… whether it be help with a task, a connection I can make for them, or prayer during a hard or dark time… I am very willing and grateful to give. But when the shoe is on the other foot, and I am the one in need, I’ve had to learn to accept the generosity of others.
“Giving is virtuous, but so is accepting gifts gratefully.” -Doe Zantamata
When I read this quote I wondered, “Am I gratefully accepting the gifts I receive from others?” My daughter just returned from an eight week summer adventure in Asia where we were out of contact for much of the time. When she was packing to leave, one of the things I told her was on the tough days to be aware of her blessings, count them, and be lifted up by them. She would need to be dependent upon, first of all, her God every single day, and secondly, on the kindness of and gifts from others around her.
Our family has had some dark and tough days over the last year or so. And now I realize our faith, and the kindness, prayers and gift from those in our lives is what has made the difference in coming through to the other side. It’s sometimes really hard to feel so weak, as if the world is pressing down on you. But I saw a great visual just the other day in a counselor’s office that illustrates how, if we allow ourselves, we can let others remove some of the heaviness and be so grateful for it. This counselor was speaking to my friend who had been carrying a pretty heavy load… he got up, walked over to her, placed his hands on her shoulders “lifting” the burden from her, removed it and carried it away. That’s what we can do for each other. Even I felt lighter as I saw him do this. And why would I want to rob the giver from the joy of giving?
I am grateful… so, so grateful for the prayers, phone calls, texts, walks, shoulders, tissues that have been passed my way. And I will continue to give generously in the same way whenever I can.
“How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it!” -George Elliston
Read my book, Connected for Good: A Gameplan for a generous Life, to discover stories of other generosity champions.
Jun 27, 2017 at 8:48 AM
I used to think acts of generosity were strategic or spontaneous gifts we give. Now I believe generosity is how we live. This has been coming to me for some time now, and I sort of got it right in Connected for Good. But this notion catapulted to my consciousness when my ‘adopted brother’ Edward tragically died after being thrown from a horse. Hundreds and hundreds were affected by this loss; friends, students, fraternity brothers and colleagues joined his wife, two adult sons and four grandkids to mourn. This loss has been the deepest sorrow I’ve ever felt, and therein lies the insight about generosity.
Edward, like his uncle, who was my stepdad for 45 years, was so tight he squeaked when he walked. He drove old cars and endlessly repaired them and delayed replacing anything until its warranty was long gone. He saved everything like his Depression-era dad because “you might need that someday.”
Edward was not a donor the way you and I look at it. Oh, he would make a charitable gift from time to time, but he was so loved because he spent himself on others…constantly. He was always available- for any chore to help anyone. Widow’s “honey-do lists,” unemployed friends needing a cup of coffee and a listening ear, grieving widowers who could not get out of bed to mow their lawns are just a few ways he gave of himself.
Here is the insight: We are wired to contribute, not consume. Lives of consumption isolate our souls from the true source of happiness. Contributing to the well-being of another turns out to be the most powerful and undervalued expression of generosity. This way of living is not strategic at all, and those who live like this would hesitate calling themselves generous…and never philanthropic. However, the lives they touch feel loved somehow, and the giver flourishes. And when the giver is gone we come to know that generosity is spending ourselves and not just our money.
Read my book, Connected for Good: A Gameplan for a Generous Life, to discover stories of others who have been, become, or continue to be generosity champions.
Jun 1, 2017 at 11:35 AM
Miss Mary is a not-so-ordinary childcare worker at the YMCA who came to me for advice. We had no friends in common, no referral source…she just found me through Google. And she told me this story:
“A girl named Sarah and I were reading a book together and I pulled out some lip gloss. As I applied it to my lips, Sarah looked up at me and said softly, “I wish I could wear lip gloss.”
I asked her if her parents allowed her to and she said, “Yes, but I’d rather not, because my lips are ugly. I wish I had pretty lips like you.” Sarah said this because she has an unrepaired cleft lip.
I told Sarah that her lips were beautiful and that she, too, can wear lip gloss. When her mother walked in, I asked if It was okay for me to give her daughter lip gloss. As I applied it to her lips, I told her, “When people tell you that you’re not pretty, tell them with confidence that ‘I know I’m not pretty, I’m beautiful!’”
I pulled a compact mirror out to let her see how beautiful she is and how anybody can wear lip gloss, no matter the shape or size of their lips. She smiled, gave me a big hug, and said, “I LOVE YOU!”
The lip gloss that Mary gave to Sarah was no ordinary lip gloss. It was Mary’s own brand that she made at home, packaged, and marketed in a startup business called BU (Beautiful You).
After telling me this story, Mary asked me an amazing question. “How do I start a foundation so that I can help children like Sarah get the medical help they need for cleft lip and palate?”
This question came out of Mary’s instinct for generosity. She is hard-wired to connect with God and others, and her heart naturally formed a desire to help kids like Sarah who have little means but are beautiful. Mary herself is not a woman of means-she is working two part-time jobs while she starts her lip gloss business.
“Forming a foundation is premature; helping Sarah is not,” I told Mary.
To begin, she will ask her trusted doctor to build a relational bridge with a surgeon at Children’s Hospital and propose a partnership to get Sarah’s surgery done. Mary will sell lip gloss and donate a portion of the proceeds to cover the surgery. She’ll relationally engage all of her customers in Sarah’s life through a grassroots marketing campaign. Not that’s an amazingly ordinary Generosity Gameplan.
By all worldly mile markers, Mary’s priorities are disordered, but her courage, boldness, and innocence are inspiring and a lesson for all of us who are stuck in Generosity Gaps (as she was leaving the office, Miss Mary asked, “What’s a Generosity Gap?” I was happy to let her know that she’s definitely not caught in the Action Gap, the Accumulation Gap, or the Gratification Gap)!
If you were to ask me a question like Mary’s about how to act on your generous heart’s desire, what would it be?
Read my book, Connected for Good: A Gameplan for a Generous Life, to discover stories of others who have made generosity beautiful, in all kinds of ways!