Perhaps the greatest gift I have ever received from my parents is the way they have embodied generosity throughout my life. I remember as a kid my parents picking up a man as he walked through the pouring rain and taking him to his destination. I remember pulling in to gas stations after my dad would see a homeless person with a sign on the side of road, he would then purchase that person something to eat or a gift card and we would go drop it off to them. I remember one time a man was badly injured on the side of the road from a bike accident and my parents didn’t hesitate to pick him up and bring him to the hospital. I remember every single Christmas picking an Angel Tree child and buying gifts even when we had so little ourselves. They are still people who give of their time, prayers, and hearts more than just about anyone I know. I grew up with two people who did, and continue to, exemplify what generosity truly means. Two people who work endlessly to be generous and yet watching them it seems to come so naturally to them. Giving to others with no expectations of anything in return. Giving to others without judgment or questions about why they are in a place of need. Giving to others even when they had so little themselves sometimes. Their selflessness is ingrained in my heart. Their ability to always teach us the importance of giving back, to have generous hearts, was never through their words but always through their actions. I have learned so much from them and I try to emulate their hearts, but just like them I am not perfect. I could always be more generous with my time, my resources, and my love. But then I remember that there is no requirement to be perfect in order to work towards a generous life. To be raised in a home that made generosity a cornerstone of who we are is something irreplaceable, and it continues to help me when I am lost in my own selfishness.
Their modeling of a generous life has taught me so much about what it is and is not. Generosity is not about self. Nothing is promised to us. To give of our hearts does not mean that we will be blessed more. That will never be the point when we are all called to be generous. Generosity is purely and simply love given with NO STRINGS ATTACHED. No judgment. No hope of a pat on the back or recognition for every good thing that is done. You do it because it is the right thing to do. You do it because something tugs on your heart strings and you desire to be an example of the unconditional love the world desperately needs. You do it because YOU KNOW there have been times in your life, at your weakest points, that someone came beside you and gave generously of their heart, time, love, or resources and helped raise you up. You do it because your community, your family, your friends, and even every stranger you come in to contact with could always use a little more love.
Our imperfections should never be used an excuse not to strive for a generous life because we are all selfish and we will all fall short at times. And in those selfish times, instead of dealing with ourselves, we will try to excuse away why we are the way we are. We will convince ourselves that our imperfections aren’t as bad as others’. We can start to believe that every person in need got themselves there and they need to work their own way out. But even if that was true, what is wrong with giving more love to this world? What is wrong with helping someone who needs it? What is wrong with trying to do what is right? And how many times in the low points of your life has someone else helped pick you up with their time, love or resources? I hope all year round we give of ourselves and our gifts with no strings attached. But I hope more than ever during this time of year we remember that we were put here to serve the world around us and to be generous with the gifts we have been given. So the only question that remains is, are we doing our part?