Merriam-Webster dictionary defines generosity as: The quality of being kind, understanding, and not selfish.
When most people contemplate the subject of generosity, they immediately think about giving – and most often the resource being given is money. However, giving alone is not necessarily a positive event. As cited by the definition above, to achieve generosity, kindness and understanding must be applied, too. In my personal experience, if you don’t connect giving with caring, the full benefits of generosity cannot be realized.
It is often shocking and confusing when the recipients of financial forms of generosity are not apparently grateful. For example, welfare recipients don’t typically feel empowered and supported when the check arrives. In their case, the act of giving has been conflated with a mixed message that they are a burden on society.
Or, to use a more benign professional example, if bonuses are distributed without a conversation or celebration, employees feel like they are being compensated, but not necessarily rewarded. Paying your employees appropriately, or even handsomely, is no replacement for treating them with kindness and appreciation for the sacrifices they make on behalf of the organization. Employees want to feel like they’ve earned their rewards, and money communicates less than we all imagine.
These ideas are particularly relevant to successful professionals and others with substantial incomes that are in a unique position to celebrate the power of prosperity by sharing their wealth. For those who are fortunate enough to count themselves among the 1%, making financial contributions to charitable causes can be done with greater ease than for most others. For this reason, I encourage people in this category to avoid the tendency to narrowly define the notion of giving in financial terms.
Giving should not be an anonymous and detached act, like paying taxes or voting. Instead, it’s an opportunity to support and encourage people. No matter how large the financial contribution, there is still a need to get on the ground and share experiences with the people whom you are contributing to. While securing donations is always top of mind for non-profits, money should not be a shield from confronting the challenging aspects of humanity and letting the recipients see and feel that you care.
Treating others like they’re valuable is the highest form of generosity you can give. It’s true that sometimes this is demonstrated through financial support. Yet, at other times compassion and kindness are revealed by sharing your presence, passion, or ability to listen and empathize. The recipients of generosity should be treated like human beings first, before sharing resources can make a lasting impact.
- Renee -