Generosity is a beautiful virtue. It has many interesting attributes that help us to look at who we are, and how we treat others. As we prepare to give and receive gifts at Christmas, it’s a good time to reflect on what “giving” means to us, as well as our patterns of consumption and the materialism with which we are surrounded. Let’s try to ensure acts of generosity are woven into the fibre of everyday life.
What does generosity mean to you and your family? Of course, it is about giving and sharing-but not about getting. Are we giving to feel goodor to look good? Generosity is giving freely without a sense of fulfilling an obligation, getting attention or receiving something in return. I remember my dismay some years ago when Thrifty Foods backed out of sponsoring an event in our community because they were going to be unable to display their signage. True generosity means there are no “strings” attached to your gesture. John Bunyan, English writer and minster wrote in the 1600’s “You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
Generosity begins by paying attention and recognising someone else’s needs. It builds on our newly sharpened virtue of understanding. Of course, many generous acts involve the giving of gifts and money, but arguably the most powerful acts of generosity come from what people give of themselves.
When we receive the gift of someone’s time, knowledge, energy, or attention, we feel honoured. When we receive the gifts of love, forgiveness, and generosity of spirit, we can consider ourselves truly blessed.
Most of our students are familiar with the story “How Full is Your Bucket?” by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. The story goes that each of us carries around with us an imaginary bucket that is filled or emptied with every interaction that occurs in our day. Filling our buckets with large acts of generosity feels absolutely marvellous, but our buckets are most freely and satisfyingly filled one drop at a time, while we help to fill someone else’s: a smile, sharing a special moment, a gesture that says “I understand you”, seizing the opportunity to hold a door, include a playmate, tuck in someone’s chair…As French author Simone de Beauvoir observed a century ago, generosity feels “…as if it costs you nothing”.
Your brother has had a rough day
A friend is upset and doesn’t feel like playing the game you hoped to play at recess
You have no money for buying presents
Someone in your class has forgotten to bring their lunch
Your mother seems tired lately
And other thoughts to ponder at the dinner table:
“Charity begins at home”.
“It is more blessed to give than it is to receive”.
“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” Kahil Gibran
“What goes around comes around”.
“The more one gives, the more one has”.
“Generosity is a ‘win-win’ virtue”.
-Tessa Lloyd, Junior School Counsellor
Photos: The Generosity Virtue Board was designed by parent volunteers Shannon Phillips and Avaneesha Govender