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The Art of Giving

It’s the time of year when charities and agencies are asking the community for money, toys and other needed items. We are being asked to be generous.

Generosity is freely sharing what you have with others without expectation of reward or return. The giving can take many forms: money, possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, good thoughts, a smile, a kind word, appreciation, honour and hope.

Generosity derives from the Latin word generōsus, which means “of noble birth.” In this way generosity came to represent traits of character and action associated with the ideals of nobility: gallantry, courage, strength, richness, gentleness, and fairness.

During the 18th Century, the meaning of generosity evolved into the contemporary meaning of kindness, open–handedness, and liberality in the giving of money and possessions to others.

In 2009, the University of Notre Dame used a $5 million grant to establish the Science of Generosity initiative. The project acknowledges that generosity is a learned character trait that involves both attitude and action.

Although the intent of generosity is to simply increase the well-being of others, the act does bring benefit to the giver. In The Paradox of Generosity, authors Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson noted a consistent and strong relationship between generosity and five factors: better physical health, greater happiness, greater purpose in life, avoidance of depression, and increased personal growth.   [View this 3 minute video which shows giving in action.]

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”     Winston Churchill

Ways to give.  Volunteer, take time to chat with others, rake leaves for a neighbour, and give that encouraging thought or smile to someone in need.  Buy extra food/items with the sole purpose of donating. Designate an easily accessible box/bag to regularly place items to be donated.  Start a loonie jar for an agency of choice.  Act on that impulse to be kind or help someone.

Even when we think we don’t have enough to share, giving when we have limited resources shows an attitude of abundance and a trust that there is enough for all. The Buddhist author Allan Lokos stated, “It is a powerful practice to be generous when you are the one feeling in need.”  Whether this is a can of soup or a thoughtful comment we all benefit; with Anne Frank noting, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”  Mother Teresa

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.