Our ministry theme for the month of September is Generosity. This is a term that typically brings up thoughts of giving something to someone else. Even more, when we hear the word “generosity,” most of us tend to think in terms of money. A “generous” gift is an expensive one. A “generous” contribution has a lot of zeros after that initial natural number.
There is also this sense of self-sacrifice in the idea of generosity. In the Christian scriptures, Jesus praises the impoverished widow’s meager offering — all she had — over and above the large contributions of the wealthy at the Temple.
But generosity is not merely about money. We are generous with our time. We share our knowledge and skills generously. We can be emotionally generous.
There is a connection between generosity and generative — note that common root, gen, which refers to birth or becoming. Mark Ewert, who wrote The Generosity Path, notes this connection and suggests that, “generosity causes something new to be produced — either a connection between people or between people and organizations.”
Yet, for most of us, generosity is a kind of giving up of something we have. If I have money, I can give some to someone else. If I have time, I can volunteer to help someone.
This sense of generosity as “giving up” something I have begins to limit me. Perhaps it causes either a sense of scarcity or a sense of entitlement.
Meditation teacher Sharon Salzburg suggests this sense of generosity puts a cap on our giving saying, “I will give this much and no more. Or I will give this article or object if I am appreciated enough through this act of giving.”
But, as Salzburg teaches us, the power of generosity is created not from “giving something up,” but from letting go. She writes, “Being able to give to others shows us our ability to let go of attachments that otherwise limit our beliefs and our experiences … it is through the practice of generosity that we learn to see through the attachments and create space for ourselves.”
Generosity is a spiritual practice. It is a practice that allows us to free ourselves from that which holds us back, from that which tries to protect our heart, but ends up disconnecting us from one another. This move toward freedom, toward connection, toward spaciousness in our lives is a powerful tool in our spiritual toolbox.
The Buddha is said to begin instructing students by teaching first about generosity. The Buddha would teach that we all have something to give. Materially, sure. But also paying attention to someone, listening deeply, smiling, touching, or thanking them. These are all displays of generosity of spirit.
Our generosity, no matter how we practice it will bring forth our connection to each other and the world upon which we live.
Join us this month as we explore — Generosity.
Photo credit: Amina Tagemouati, CC-BY-2.0 license