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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Generosity Revisited

This country girl recently spent a few days in the big city. I was shocked to find beggars on almost every corner. How did this happen? I was, for a moment, defeated. My hopes for humanity dashed...

"You must be the change you want to see in the world." I heard the words loud and clear reverberate through my being. I've read them before, but this time I truly heard them.

In my little community, the poor are cared for by our church groups, local non-profit organizations, downtown shopkeepers who quietly see to it that there is always enough to share. I am regularly asked to give: of my time, through financial means, or simply by extending a bit of compassion – doing a little hand holding, listening without judgement. I do what I can.

Riding the subway on a hot August afternoon, I contemplated the greater meaning of generosity. Because of the worldwide financial crisis, most of us are being forced to make hard decisions about where to put our limited resources. Many givers have found themselves on the receiving end. The tides are changing.

But I believe that it's not how much we are each able to give that matters as much as that we give regularly. Even if this year's contributions can't match our patterns from the past, we can continue our commitment and our intention to be connected. Generosity is a spiritual practice that reflects an attitude of heart and mind. I'll share my daily ritual with you.

Before I leave the house to make my daily errand rounds to the post office, the grocery, and beyond – I put a few coins in my pocket so I can reach them quickly. I give this small amount away without stopping to evaluate how the money will be used. Although I may choose to drop a few coins in a blind street musicians cup, more likely I am apt to cover the difference for someone struggling for correct change in the line at the grocery, or pay the toll for the car behind me... you get the idea. Although these may not be our neediest community members, I'm paying it forward. I trust the ripple effect to work in my favor. This simple practice cultivates my habit of giving without thinking about what I might get back. It reminds me that everything I have is a gift to be freely shared.

When I see advertisements in my local paper seeking donations for books for literacy programs, food, blankets, towels, and toys for animal shelters, staples for the food bank, I include those stops in my daily rounds, too. If I walk around my house with a canvas bag just before I walk out the door, I can always find a jar of food or two, a book, some old towels for the humane society. I can stuff it quite readily. I stop in my garden and snap a few sunflowers from their stems and drop them in a jar of water. They sing of happiness, connections, abundance, community!

In just a couple of minutes a day, I model to my children, friends, and neighbors how easy it is to support these projects and I reinforce my own intention to be of help in a needy world.

While dropping off the old towels, I take a minute to pat a dog or two. I might meet a prospective adoption family and revel in their excitement of finding a new family member to love. I stop by the desk to say thank you to the volunteer and leave a bright, happy blossom on her desk.

Always, I take away more than I have left behind.


May you be blessed!

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