The Best Gift: My Parents Lifelong Example of Generosity
2020 has given me an even greater appreciation for the generosity my parents have embodied throughout my life. They never talked about it they just lived it out loud.
As a kid I remember my parents picking up a man, a total stranger, as he walked through the pouring rain and taking him to his destination. I can recall my dad pulling in to gas stations after he would see a homeless person on the side of road and purchasing them something to eat or a gift card. I remember one time a man, who was badly injured on the side of the road from a bike accident, that my parents didn’t hesitate to pick up and bring to the hospital. I remember every single Christmas picking an Angel Tree child and buying gifts for them even when there were Christmases there was barely enough money to buy their own children gifts. They made sure their girls knew that generosity and selfless love towards others were more important than anything else by being a living example of these things each and every day.
They are still these people, who give of their time, prayers, money, and hearts more than just about anyone I know. I grew up with two people who did, and continue to, exemplify what generosity means. 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 at times. Their selflessness is ingrained in my heart. 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, or in a year like 2020 when at times hope has seemed in short supply, I remember their example and am reminded there is always hope but it starts with each and every one of us.
Their modeling of a generous life has taught me so much about what it is and what it 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 and we should never expect that. 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.
My parents’ generous hearts remind me that our excuses for not giving will never be more important than the impact our selflessness can have. Too often we find ourselves falling in to a trap of believing 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 can think of endless examples in my own life where people have selflessly loved and provided for me in small and large ways. I know that watching how my parents’ generosity has changed lives has imbedded in me the impact we can have on people’s lives when we think of them first, not ourselves.
I hope all year round we give of ourselves and our gifts with no strings attached. I hope in 2020 we have acted out of selfless love, protecting others, giving to others, and being the love the world needs. I hope more than ever during this time of year we remember that we were put here to serve “the least of these”, to add love and hope to those around us, and to be generous with the gifts we have been given. I hope that my parents serve as a model for you as they have for me because their kindness is admirable, but most importantly, they show every day that their generosity is also possible for each of us to replicate.