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Adults - October 2016
October: A Month of Generosity
When we speak of a life worth living, generosity is an essential part of that life. Generous financial gifts that build or strengthen public institutions and communities of faith make life richer for everyone. When people are generous with time and talent as well as treasure, we feel valued as individuals and the common good is nourished. Generosity can be extended through extravagant attention, a high degree of commitment, an abundance of hope in the future, and expressions of love that cheer the lives and gladden the hearts of all who enter the circle of our care.
To start your journey into a deeper understanding of generosity, here is a rich resource of material from the Fetzer Institute to help guide your way.
Acts of generosity can be expressed in many different ways. This video provides a moving portrait of how one man’s daily interactions with people in his neighborhood gave him ample opportunity to call upon the power of generosity to be a force for good.
There is a close link between gratitude and generosity. As we give thanks for all that has made our lives possible and meaningful, so may we imagine how to enrich the well-being of others.
Offer Prayer for Generosity
Gracious God, in the busyness of my day, I sometimes forget to stop to thank You for all that is good in my life. My blessings are many and my heart is filled with gratefulness for the gift of living, for the ability to love and be loved, for the opportunity to see the everyday wonders of creation, for sleep and water, for a mind that thinks and a body that feels. I thank you, too, for those things in my life that are less than I would hope them to be. Things that seem challenging, unfair, or difficult. When my heart feels stretched and empty and pools of tears form in my weary eyes, still I rejoice that you are as near to me as my next breath and that in the midst of turbulence, I am growing and learning. In the silence of my soul, I thank you most of all for your unconditional and eternal love. Amen.
Biblical Texts for Generosity
Read and reflect on the passage for each week.
Douglas V. Henry is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Associate Dean of the Honors College at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. In this article he explores the rich historical roots of generosity as a virtue that is central to a life worth living:
Generosity of Spirit
Generosity names not merely something we do, but an admirable quality of character, something we are. Undergirding the character of truly generous people is a special awareness of themselves, others, and God’s gracious provision for the world, and this understanding inspires genuinely generous activity.
In the article, "Two Words That Will Change Your Life" by Eric Demeter, learn how gratitude begets humility which begets God’s grace.
It’s almost incredulous that Jesus heals 10 lepers in Luke 17simultaneously. Without fanfare, he simply commands the motley crew, “Go, show yourselves to the priest.” They exit stage left and their skin is restored. Jesus earns a big, two thumbs down for lack of sensationalism.
The Paradox of Generosity is the first study to make use of the cutting-edge empirical data collected in Smith's groundbreaking, multidisciplinary, five-year Science of Generosity Initiative. It draws on an extensive survey of 2,000 Americans, more than sixty in-depth interviews with individuals across twelve states, and analysis of over 1,000 photographs and other visual materials. This wealth of evidence reveals a consistent link between demonstrating generosity and leading a better life: more generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression. Smith and Davidson also show, however, that to achieve a better life a person must practice generosity regularly-random acts of kindness are not enough.
Sharon Salzberg is a practitioner of mindfulness meditation and a columnist for the weekly radio program, On Being. In this article, she reflects on the way that generosity can be a practice that nourishes all who are touched by its capacity to enhance happiness.
The Real Power of Generosity
Instead, we may think of it similarly to how we think of kindness or compassion — qualities that are gentle, tender, potentially self-effacing — and, as a big misconception, more aligned with weakness than strength. Largely this is because, culturally, we think of generosity purely in terms of the act of giving something up for someone else. This dynamic, by definition, implies at least some degree of self-sacrifice.
In his book, Living Kindness, Donald Altman writes about Jewish concepts of generosity: "In Judaism, the concept of giving is essential through what is known as tzedakah, or charity. Actually, the roots of the word stand for justice, righteousness, or fairness. It was in the twelfth century that the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides compiled his 'eight levels of charity' as a kind of guide to enlightened living. The levels, starting from the lowest to highest, are as follows:
Parker Palmer is an American educator whose books touch upon the ways in which spiritual practices encourage not only the lives of individuals but the entire common good. In this article he talks about the way in which an airline attendant called upon the practice of generosity to transform the lives of those in her care.
Loaves and Fishes Are Not Dead, Parker Palmer
Here's a poem I love, based on a story I love — the biblical tale of "the feeding of the five thousand":
Loaves and Fishes by David Whyte, from The House of Belonging
This is not
the age of information.
This is NOT
the age of information.
Forget the news
and the radio
and the blurred screed.
This is the time
People are hungry
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.
As far as I'm concerned, that story doesn’t involve any magic. It's about the miracle of sharing in community, an everyday miracle that anyone with some courage can pull off. Here's an example of what I mean, a bit long but worth your time...
Basic, Daily Practice for a More Generous Life
If, each day, we could engage in a “basic daily generosity practice,” it would be enough to positively impact our lives and the world around us. Just because a practice is simple does not mean it has simple results. Even though you might choose to try this practice in a more formal way at the same time each day, it can be done anytime, anywhere, and as often as you want.
Visit this website to explore more.
In this inspiring talk at the NextGen:Charity conference, Sasha Dichter of the Acumen Fund shares the results of his month-long "Generosity Experiment" where he said "yes" to every request for help.
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