Generosity: a readiness to give more

When someone mentions the holiday season, we often think of gratitude. (OK, OK, maybe we think of turkey, or family, or gifts. Then gratitude!) There’s plenty to be said for giving thanks, even in the most challenging times. But while gratitude focuses on the blessings bestowed to us, it’s generosity that inherently shifts the focus to others.

Bell employees receiving the generosity of community donors.

So much of our time and relationships are transactional: You helped me; I owe you. I asked something of you; you came through. Do you have what I need? Here you go. We enter social contracts and are bound by expectations, and we meet them pleasantly, often enough.

Generosity defies expectations. It is, instead, a readiness to give more of something than is strictly necessary or expected. (Says the dictionary.)

That seems kind of delightful, when you stop to consider it.

Someone — a stranger, a colleague, a neighbor, a friend — who is open, willing, and ready to give more than what is needed or expected. More than our social contracts demand. Who benefits from this? The receiver, for sure. And also, it turns out, the giver.

In fact, studies show that there are powerful benefits when we choose to be generous.

Generous people are healthier.
Less stress, improved physical health, increased sense of purpose, and increased lifespan are just a handful of the benefits attributed to generosity. It’s also been shown to be a natural way to stave off depression and improve our own self confidence. Seeing first-hand that someone else is benefitting from our kindness, for example, is a powerful antidote for an inner voice that may otherwise whisper negative thoughts about our self-worth.

Generous people enjoy stronger relationships and social connections.
People are drawn to those who have an open heart and a willingness to share with others. It should come as no surprise that the more we share with others, the more we strengthen our community and relationships. When volunteering your time, giving financially, or sharing your talents, you create a shared sense of purpose and value that strengthens the social connection between giver and receiver.

Generous people are happier.
Generosity doesn’t have to mean big-dollar impact. What matters most is how clearly and directly we can see our personal efforts impact someone else — and if you feel like what you’re doing is making a difference for others, it’s easy to feel that emotional boost.

In this season, remember Aesop’s wise words:

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Don’t underestimate the power of generosity.

story contributed by Sarah Chain (for publication in Resonance, Vol. 3 Issue 1)

Sarah Chain is a storyteller, amateur gardener, part-time yoga teacher, and full-time Marketing Director for United Way of York County. Through each of these hobbies and work, she has ample opportunity to witness and be inspired by the generosity of others. She has lived in York County for 10 years.