Have I told you about this fabulous book I read about generosity? OK, I realize that this may not be a book for everyone’s taste, but heck, I’m a church administrator! The book is actually a layperson’s version (meaning totally readable) of a five-year study called the Science of Generosity Initiative. The book, The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, explores the tantalizing link between practicing generosity and leading a better life. The authors make the case that generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression than ungenerous or less generous people. And they go to great pains to show that the arrow of causality goes from generosity to health and happiness and not just that healthy, happy people are more generous.
Based on the assumption that you would like to lead a happier, better life, you should be heartened to learn that you can learn generosity. By practicing generosity, you can become a more generous person and thereby reap the benefits.
Right now, UUCA congregants, particularly those who attended Sunday Services on January 6, are getting a chance to practice generosity by doing random acts of kindness this month. If you missed that service, or selected a random act that day that just doesn’t work for you, do an internet search for “random acts of kindness,” pick one you like, and do it! Do more than one! At our January 27 services, Rev. Claudia will be asking you how it felt to be generous in that way.
Practicing generosity in this way can be fun, and it certainly doesn’t require money to do it. There are actually four forms of giving that are part of the generosity cluster: volunteering your time and skills; giving attention and sharing emotions with others (relational generosity); neighborly expressions of care (hospitality, friendliness, assistance with chores)—this is where I would classify random acts of kindness—and the one we all think of first, financial generosity.
Somewhat surprisingly, although generous people practice all these forms of generosity, it is financial generosity that is most highly correlated with health and happiness. But there is still one more variable that needs to be met to activate the benefits of generosity; the attitude of the giver. Giving dutifully, giving begrudgingly, or giving transactionally, no matter the amount, won’t do it. It’s joyful giving that is the key. Generously supporting groups, activities, or people that deeply connect with your own values is your ticket to a better life for you. It’s science!
So do yourself a favor. Flex your generosity muscle with some random acts of kindness, donate your time and talent to benefit others, be kind, emotionally support friends and/or family, and find your passion—that place where generous financial giving will give you joy!
Director of Administration
Excellent post, Linda. And good advice. Thanks for sharing.