Welcome, 2017. I’ve been waiting for you. Your arrival fills me with hope for what’s to come, and I can’t wait to delve into the new opportunities you will bring. You allow us all the chance to have a fresh start, and as I approach the starting line, I’m re-energized for the journey ahead.
The new year encourages self-reflection.
Like most people, I’ve been wondering what I need to do differently this year. Of course, there are all sorts of New Year’s resolutions, but I have settled on one I feel most passionately about. This year I vow to be more generous. You might wonder if I am embarking upon a total transformation of character, but I’m not. I’d like to believe I haven’t totally hit rock bottom when it comes to giving. Honestly, I think I do okay. I give at the socially expected times to do so: birthdays, Christmas, teacher gifts, etc. If there’s a fundraiser going on, count me in. (I am eagerly awaiting the month of March when Girl Scout cookie sales shift into high gear.)
However, I want my life to be centered around being generous. That’s different.
This idea took root about a month ago when I heard a sermon by Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. His definition of generosity took me by surprise. He defined it as the premeditated, calculated, emancipation of personal finances. In other words, long-term generosity with money requires careful planning. In the past, I haven’t been great at this. This kind of generosity goes beyond the random acts of kindness that we all do when we hear of someone in need. It’s planning in advance how I want to give away money before I’ve even received it.
Stanley also shed light on the myth that only rich people can be generous. He explained that, “Generous people are generous. There is no correlation between how much money you have and whether you are generous.” Really? I have always believed the more money you have the more likely you are to be generous. Not true.
According to Stanley, generosity is a learned behavior. It has to be taught. Consider how our children have to be taught to share. It may sound a bit strange, but adults have to be taught to be generous as well. It’s a different way of living that is ordered around giving to others. While Stanley’s sermon focused mostly on being generous with money, I want to include being generous with my time and other resources as well. Here are a few ways I’m planning to do just that.
Ways to be generous in 2017:
Support others’ interest.
-Show up at a friend or family member’s yard sale. Buy something.
-Attend an event for a friend or family member whose child is in a play, band concert, or sporting event.
Simply listen. Actually listen.
Tell about a personal experience that would benefit the listener.
Leverage your personal relationships on behalf of someone in need.
-Use your contacts to help someone find a job.
-Help someone new to your area get connected with friends.
Share your expertise on how to do something with someone who could use a nudge in the right direction.
Give money. I’ll continue to give spontaneously, but I also plan to give to specific organizations this year.
Babysit for that overwhelmed couple or single parent who needs a break. Trust me, we all know someone who could use it.
Many forms of personal writing like a well thought out thank-you card, note of encouragement, or a birthday card are wonderful acts of generosity. It’s rare these days to get personal mail; knowing someone took the time to mail a card instead of just sending a quick text means a lot.
I don’t doubt this may seem to some like a crazy approach to life. I get it. I’m a bit intimidated by all of this, too. It’s not easy or natural to put your own desires aside for the sake of others. I have been the recipient of many of the generous acts listed above. There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to the people in my life that have shown me such kindness. Choosing to live this way is a big commitment, but I’m willing to give it a shot. And, just maybe focusing on others will lead to what I really want most in 2017: HAPPINESS.