Generosity is a funny thing. For some people, it’s a way of life and guiding principle. For others, it’s an idea that only tweaks their conscience around holidays or after natural disasters.
Are you a generous person? Likely you are. In my mind, all readers and writers and good people. Please don’t tell me if that’s not true.
The subject of giving is one that keeps coming back to my mind. So, like most writers, I’m creating a story about it and what I’ve learned from preparing taxes.
My day job involves working as a bookkeeper and tax preparer. My first year in this field is almost up. During the last twelve months, many client’s financial records have crossed my desk. Examining the books of so many has revealed a few undeniable trends.
Coming into this arena, I had some preconceived ideas. For instance, I imagined I would see how those with the most money gave the most to help others. The reality has revealed a very different picture.
Faces of generosity
Who comes to your mind when you think of examples of generosity? Is it someone famous? That would be understandable. Celebrities from Oprah to Mark Ruffalo have gone above and beyond to share their wealth to make the lives of others better.
We should applaud them. It’s an honorable thing whenever a person of means is able to help out those who are struggling.
Yet, often, the giving that gets all the attention is only a tiny fraction of the income or assets of the giver. The truly generous, those who “give ’til it hurts,” are rarely recognized.
What I’ve noticed over and over is that the poorest group of taxpayers tend to be the biggest givers. Maybe they are inspired by the widow’s mite story from the Bible. That destitute woman gave her last coins, or “all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:4 Byington) That kind of giving is inspiring.
Whatever the case may be, seeing how those with so little can manage to give so much has me doing a lot of soul searching. In my search to be the good I want to see in the world, it became necessary to think about my giving.
Can I give more?
It’s been a happy surprise to see how the relatively poor can give so much. Maybe they are only giving $5 or $10 at a time, but they are consistently giving to make the world a better place.
Think about that for a moment. If I give you $5 but I have $50,000, what does that mean to you? However, if I give you $5 and I only have $10, doesn’t that make the gift more valuable?
Watching this self-sacrificing giving has me asking, “Am I generous enough? Am I giving when I can?”
It’s easy to make excuses. Truth be told, I am not doing well financially. I left a truly awful job almost two years ago, and while I love my current position, I’m only taking home about two-thirds of the income I was before.
If I give you $5 and I only have $10, doesn’t that make the gift more valuable?
The tighter pursestrings have limited where I can spend the funds available to me. Streaming services had to go along with eating out and a lot of other unnecessary spending.
However, I’m embarrassed to admit that my giving to others has drastically declined as well, no doubt more than it should have.
Now that I’ve had this revelation, it’s time for me to do something.
Generosity is more than money
Please don’t misunderstand me. While financial giving is great, it’s not the only way to be generous. The most generous people I can think of are those who willingly offer their time and energy to help others.
Being generous can be as simple as listening to a friend who needs to chat or raking leaves in your neighbor’s yard. Giving could be taking the time to give your partner your full attention rather than being distracted by the notifications popping up on your screen.
There are opportunities around us everywhere to be generous. Some people do need funds, but others just need a friendly smile or a door held open for them.
Look around you. No doubt there is one person nearby who needs you to be generous. Let’s all try to do what we can.
This post originally appeared on Medium on October 14, 2019.