I think you will agree that there is an extraordinary amount of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty in the world as we enter 2017. People are concerned for the future and the unknown. There are appeals for everyone to come together for the well-being of all.
It is in this context that I believe generosity can play a role in helping to bring people together.
I recently learned of a conversation a father had with his son who came home from his first day of middle school afraid. He didn't have any friends and did not know what to expect going forward. His father encouraged him to think of the other students in his class. He told his son one of the best things that you can do when you are fearful is to think of someone else. When we focus on others we feel less afraid for ourselves. He encouraged his son to make friends with other students in the class as they too may be fearful and have feelings of being alone.
According to Michael Dauphinee, the talented leadership coach in his book, Identity, states that, “Generosity, though focused on someone else is paradoxically one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves." He cites that at its core, generosity is a perspective. It's a perspective of the world that's bigger than us.
I have always loved the 1965 song by Jackie DeShannon, “What the World Needs Now” …is love, sweet love. Coming together and building community through generosity is certainly a demonstration of the sweet love we need in our world.
A powerful picture of that generosity of love sweet love is Missio Dei Uptown, a church on Chicago’s Northside. For the last several years, Missio Die has hosted a Christmas Eve dinner for about 200 people in their community. Uptown is considered one of the most diverse communities in Chicago and includes many homeless and disenfranchised persons who attend the dinner.
What is most inspiring about this dinner is that it is the church leadership’s objective to help build the Uptown community not by providing a hand out to those in need but rather by entering into the lives of those in their community as a means of coming together and strengthening each other.
Many people think that generosity is about rich and poor, the haves and the have not's, the insiders and the disenfranchised. But in reality, generosity is entering into someone else’s story. It’s connecting our life story with theirs. Giving generously to someone in need or taking time to listen to someone’s concern, for that moment enables us to enter into their world and connects us together. Coming together through an act of generosity strengthens our relationships and builds community.
Michael Dauphinee confirms this idea when he states that "generosity is about acknowledging people and responding with open hands, heart and mind in recognition of their humanity. Generosity is an attempt to be a part of a world bigger than our own. To be a part of the story of someone else's life.”
Generosity is not only about the needs of the recipients but it is also about the needs of the givers. It is about the need to build relationships and communities by entering into the stories of the people with whom we live, work, and encounter on a daily basis.
How can you be generous and enter into the story of other people’s lives? What are ways you can help people come together and in some small way help build your community?
By reaching out and being generous with others, like the middle school student, you hopefully will help reduce any anxiety, fear and uncertainty we may have entering 2017 and will bring us together building a stronger community.
For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.” Click here to place your order.