What is generosity exactly? Giving time? Money? Things? Attention? Encouragement? Emotional availability? Some say it is an essential human virtue.
Apparently Bill Gates thinks “Antiquated ideas of kindness and generosity are simply bugs that must be programmed out of our world. And these cold, unfeeling machines (his computers) will show us the way”. I hope he was joking when he said that.
I prefer the words of Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran who said “Generosity is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.”
The word ‘generosity’ derives from the Latin ‘generosus’ which means ‘of noble birth’, but since the seventeenth century it has become more closely associated with ‘a nobility of spirit’. I like this definition: 'the virtue of giving good things to other people, freely and with abundance’.
According to Frank Howard Clark real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out. We have a long history of random acts of generosity – from giving secret valentines to outpourings of support in the aftermath of a natural disaster to people we’ve never met, and probably never will.
Apparently over $6 million has been ploughed into scientific research about the nature of generosity by the University of Notre Dame’s ‘Science of Generosity Initiative’, and even Oprah has a word to say on it. According to this article in O Magazine, "Simply contemplating generosity boosts your immunity. When Harvard students watched a film about Mother Teresa tending to orphans, the number of protective antibodies in their saliva surged; when the students were asked to focus on times when they'd been loved by or loving to others, their antibody levels stayed elevated for an hour” and “People suffering from chronic pain report decreased intensity, and less disability and depression, when they reach out to others in similar pain. In one study, pain was reduced by 13%”.
In this short video Suze Orman has some interesting words to say about the connection between generosity and values and how, if we are so busy clinging on to what we have, our hands are not open to receive. She argues that the act of giving forces you to open your hands to be ready to welcome other things in. Some would argue that that means we are giving only to receive, but I get where she is coming from - and without willing recipients, it is hard to give.
Random acts of generosity make me smile. I'm going to do them more often
And here are some of the random acts of generosity I have found on the web, sharing the love, just because…
- 7 million people around the world giving their stuff away for free to stop it going to landfill
- Bringing a bit of surprise happiness into other people’s lives: Christine Mason Miller’s 100 Books project and Someguy’s 1000 journals project
- Doing kind things for strangers
- 250 free courses from some of the best Universities in the world
- Free art instruction
- Free ‘world changing writing tips’
- Daily giveaways, just for fun
- Helping people finance their very cool dreams
- Brilliant mini tutorials from artists like DJ Pettitt
- All the lovely bloggers who share their thoughts and ideas for free, for all of us, every day, and those who celebrate the gifts and success of others
So, in the spirit of generosity, what will be my gift to you? Well seeing how much fun the last giveaway was, I am going to do another one. This time the prize is some magic soap 'The Masters' Savon Special Artiste', which cleans anything off your hands after painting – oil, gouache, ink, acrylic, whatever. I bought it from this lovely little ancient art supply shop in Paris. To enter all you need to do is leave a comment below, saying what generosity means to you, or sharing a link to some other generosity out there on the web.
“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”