Can we spend at least as much time cultivating generosity as we do talking about gratitude?
Founder and President, Child Care Counts
We are often urged to express gratitude these days and, indeed, we should. For even the least prosperous of us, in the United States, fare better than those in so many war-torn, terrorism-plagued countries. But after we have thanked our lucky stars for the blessings that we enjoy, I would like to encourage everyone to remember generosity. Or, maybe, it should be the other way around…
Hopefully, one begets the other. Being thankful implies that we are aware that at least some of the things we enjoy, are not necessarily deserved, and so, hopefully, we are prompted to “pay it forward” for the benefit of others. Conversely, if we are generous, we realize that not everyone experiences the same level of comfort in their lives and this knowledge causes us to feel thankful for the things we might, otherwise, take for granted. They really go hand in hand and it’s pretty hard to have one without the other.
But generosity gets short shrift these days as we read one post after another on social media reminding us to be grateful. Being grateful is important but it is passive – we feel good but unless it prompts us to do good – it is useless to everyone except ourselves. Generosity, on the other hand, is active. We have to do something for someone or something that is not ourselves, to be generous. Generosity is better, than gratitude, as a way to connect with the world around us and that connection is really what gives life meaning.
Many people think you have to give a lot of money to be generous, but generosity doesn’t have to be a huge donation to a charity. It’s definitely not so many gifts, given by people, out of ideas, to other people, who have just about everything. Generosity can be a door opened for someone or a heart-felt thank you to a clerk or cashier finishing up a long shift. These little gestures can touch someone who might be struggling in ways you cannot imagine, and that human connection actually releases hormones in your body that produce a “giver’s high.” So, both the giver and giftee benefit.
Not feeling very generous these days? That’s understandable. We have had a very tough year. Thankfully, generosity is like a smile. Even if it doesn’t feel real at first, if you practice it often enough, soon it will. Let’s do each other a huge favor and practice generosity every day and out of this practice, gratitude will happen automatically.
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