Generosity Can Be More Than Charity

Generosity. Imagine a word-association game, and generosity highlights the moment. What’s your first response? Come on now, no deep thinking here, folks.

I believe money will be a strong candidate for the most considered word. Money and generosity. Generosity and money. Now, give some thought to other words that you associate with generosity. Write some of them down, and comprehend their meaning.

Years ago, I met a Brazilian woman at work. She shared stories of her family still residing in Brazil. She described them as kind, loving and rich with their generosity. They weren’t rich by financial standards. However, their openness of emotion and spirit sounded so appealing. She said that if I ever met her family (I was a casual friend), they’d greet and treat me like family. Lastly, her adventure with time in the states was touched with sadness of a generally described closed society. Nevertheless, she hugged everyone she greeted, looked them squarely in the eye when in conversation and touched people with a generosity of emotion and spirit.

I remember driving cross country often during the 1970s. My alone time was occasionally met with a child’s wave and smile as their parents’ vehicle passed me on the highways. I felt a glow and sense of openness from the copious children whose paths I crossed ever so briefly. Fast forward to recent years I find children not inclined to meet my eye as I drove with my family here and there.

Silently, I felt a genuine sadness. I asked around seeking answers to what has evolved promoting this change? After a few silly replies, the common answer was ”fear … the kids are afraid.” They have learned to be afraid of strangers. They don’t know me from their worst nightmares. Some food for thought.

So, back to generosity. Where does the concept of generosity reside in our respective lives? I have a fond memory replete with the basic fundamental teachings beyond the classroom. I was raised in suburbia; you know, where houses were lined up close enough to challenge relationships with neighbors. Each time a new family moved in, my mother baked a chocolate cake that we delivered as a welcome gesture. Once I got past the raw fact that the cake wasn’t for us, she insisted I join her in what became a ritual of genuine generosity. The experience of handing over the cake to a smiling family new to our neighborhood was precious and long lasting. There was little fanfare. Wow, I was impressed.

Mom didn’t hold exclusive rights to teaching us about generosity in the aforementioned and other subtle ways. Dad, too, had a loving manner that reflected a bright light of generosity in the aforementioned and other subtle ways. Dad, too, had a loving manner that reflected a bright light of generosity. Dad performed accounting work in our half-finished basement. He greeted clients upon their arrival and when they departed our home with genuineness forever etched in my psyche. He systematically charged clients according to what he believed they could afford not by a fixed design. Therefore, he earned less money; however, he earned their highest respect. On one occasion, a man and his young son had traveled a long distance to see my dad and arrived by taxi. Dad insisted I drive them home. The man was blown away at dad’s generosity.

You see, generosity isn’t strictly defined in financial terms. Oh, yes, I agree that money for charitable organizations is important. Especially when donors give anonymously does the gesture feel more authentic. Generosity from financial sources is valuable to the respective organizations. However, those who volunteer their time, sweat and toil to give often without fanfare to charitable organizations … now that’s a more soulful generosity. Generosity of the spirit in small doses given daily to family, to friends, even to strangers in a healthy and hearty manner, no strings attached if you catch my drift can lift the spirit of even the downtrodden, the impoverished.

Lastly, don’t forget yourself. Giving in the spirit of generosity to others is commendable. Giving to yourself is reflected by your generosity to others. Allow yourself to also receive their gifts of generosity. Thank you. What a great world we live in (K.I.S.S.) Keep It Simple and Spiritual.

Marshall Greenstein holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email