The Gift of Generosity

Gifts left outside a front door decorated by a wreath - generosity and gift giving

To Give When We Have Little

Years ago, when my boys were small, our bank put up a Christmas tree with paper ornaments on which were written children’s names, ages, and the gift they wished for.  Each year, I would take one of those ornaments.  Money was tight back then, so I looked for a small gift, one I could get for under ten dollars.

One year, my son told me I shouldn’t do that.  “If you leave it for someone with more money, they’ll buy a better gift.”

I hesitated.  What he said made sense to me, and I was aware of a hint of shame and unworthiness poking at my heart. But I wanted to do give a present.  Buying a simple gift for an unknown child mattered to me.  Even if it wasn’t much, it felt good to have something to give.


So I took the ornament, and yes, got a cheap toy that would likely break sooner than not, and maybe the child would have been better off with someone else’s gift.  Only we don’t know that.  Maybe no one would have taken that ornament if I hadn’t.

The Power of Generosity

Gifts left outside a front door decorated by a wreath - generosity and gift giving

And that wasn’t the point, really. Giving that gift was less about helping someone else than it was about helping me.

When we feel discouraged, ashamed, unloved, it helps to realize we have something to offer someone else. It doesn’t have to be monetary. We don’t have to give a toy or a coat or a tablet or a car. Even if we have nothing of material value, we still have ourselves. We can listen, smile, offer loving touch. We can give from our heart.

At least, we can if we aren’t lost in our addiction. Then we might lose our ability to care about others or to be true to our values. Not only do we hurt others, we betray ourselves, over and over.

And one thing that feeds that kind of addictive insensitivity is money. Leo Booth, in his book, Say Yes to Your Life, points out that “Money can be a curse. It can destroy people.”

Addicts are often compulsive. When we let money bring out that compulsivity in us, we let money control us. We lose ourselves trying to earn it, save it, and spend it. We use it to stroke our ego and bring us status. We forget to be generous and kind. As is true with any addiction, when we cling to money, we lose the capacity to love.

The Gift of Generosity

When I felt lost, I had nothing to give. Oh, I could be nice. I could even smile and listen, to a degree. Yet I felt so burdened and afraid, I clung to everything I owned, was stingy with my physical and emotional resources, and felt alone and angry.

When we feel as if we have nothing to give, then perhaps we can offer the gift of gratitude for what we receive. Booth points to that when he suggests we give thanks to God “for the need to give so that I might receive.”

How grateful I am that strangers I met during those most challenging times in my life felt the need to give. Strangers offered housing, food, advice, encouragement, compassion. My family and I survived. We even thrived. I was grateful when, a few years later, we were able to offer a bed to another couple who found themselves without a home.

That’s why I wanted to give that present, even if it wasn’t much. I am still afraid; I am still insecure; I still think what I have isn’t enough and isn’t good enough. Yet I don’t let that control me. I am grateful that my heart is filled with the need to give. Because it is really true that in giving we receive.

In Faith and Fondness,