People will generally talk about and teach on the topic they struggle with the most. Because in that struggle comes the wisdom and learning, it doesn’t mean that the person has overcome the struggle completely, it just means they are wrestling with it.
It’s interesting to note that I talk most about being generous and how that is good for you. What that really means that I am naturally a selfish person. In just about all areas of my life I am a person who is wrestling with self-centeredness but striving for generosity.
It is tough and has been ongoing for as long as I can remember.
The reason I find it a struggle is that generosity is difficult, costly, time consuming and is about other people. I find it hard to think of others when I am so conscious of my own needs and wants, but not theirs. It is natural for me to only see the world through my own eyes, because they are the only eyes I have.
So, I immerse myself in the idea of giving because I know that giving is better than receiving, those who are generous will be blessed and will be a blessing – basically giving is good for you and the world.
Jesus lived a most generous life. He saw the hearts and the hurts of those around Him. He walked with them, laughed with them, cried with them, healed them, prayed for them and then died for them. His compassion for people is something I want to emulate.
So I talk about generosity a lot – not because I have mastered it but because I am still wrestling.
I hear no quite a bit.
I work for a charity and I ask people to give generously to that charity. If I am doing my job then people will say ‘no’ to me on a regular basis, to either meeting with me, coming to an event, or being generous financially. I get ‘no’ on a much more regular basis than I get a ‘yes’, and it can hurt. It can create doubt and fear and a sense of rejection. To not go crazy, I choose to approach this ‘rejection’ with a particular mindset.
A while ago I spent some time working in radio and at the time (things may have shifted a little now) the adage was that someone needed to hear an advertisement 7 times before they decided to engage with it. Essentially, on average, it takes time for people to get comfortable with a message or product before they start to build trust and get to the point where they look at buying or connecting.
I now take the same approach with every conversation I have with someone or when I speak at an event. I talk proudly about Opportunity International and how we are ending poverty but at the same time I recognise that it could be the first time that someone has heard of the organisation and what we do, or the first time they have heard about giving to charity. I can’t expect them to jump on board straight away, but this is the first important step. It could also be the third or fourth time, or it could be the seventh time and they say yes and support generously. It just depends on the person and their journey.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I have had people tell me that they have heard me speak a few times before and now they are ready to support.
If people say no to me, that’s okay, it’s not the ‘seventh’ time for them yet. My job is to keep the relationship going so they can get to that point.
I also know that some people will never come around, that’s okay too. They are on their own journey and whilst I believe being generous is good for everyone, we all have to come to that place in our own time and on our own terms.
There is no doubt that if you look around at the world today it can make you very sad. Death, destruction, poverty, hatred and ignorance.
Sure things are bad but they are not as bad as we think. Not even close. In fact the entire world appears to be ignorant of just how great things are in comparison to how they were.
I have written about some of this before, highlighting child mortality has dropped by 70% since 1970, even though the global population has grown by 30% in that time. 2 billion more people, 16 million less deaths of children under the age of 5. Phenomenal.
But that just scratches the surface. Over the last 100 years global incomes per person have sky rocketed and the average life span across the world has improved over the last 50 years. The average lifespan globally today is 70. Almost everything is better including the amount of people who own guitars and this is what I wanted to focus on.
There are a number of different ways to measure improvement, through income levels, life expectancy, population growth, babies born per women and culture. The last one is a little complex to measure, but music is a good place to start.
Hans Rosling (my new hero) has data on playable guitars per capita (who thinks of these things?), and back in 1962 there was 200 playable guitars for every 1 million people, in 2014 that had grown to 11,000 playable guitars for every 1 million people. The increase in income globally has allowed more people to engage in cultural activities like music, being a sign that things are improving.
Things are bad in our world, but they are a heck of a lot better than they used to be, they continue to get better, and we are not finished yet.
“You will not be satisfied until you step into a life of generosity” Jason Jaggard
I find it most difficult on Monday mornings. Not every one, but generally it’s a Monday. The day brings with it a sense of longing, questioning and searching. Is what I am doing really worthwhile? What if I am just wasting my time? What if no one else gets it? Is this really what I want to be doing for the rest of my life?
Perhaps you know these questions and the driving force behind them, which is what I would call the search for purpose. What motivates my behaviours? Why do I do what I do?
Some will suggest that we all have a calling – something specific that we are placed on this earth to do and if we don’t find what that is we can miss our calling and then ultimately miss our purpose in life.
Others think that we don’t have a specific task or calling but we are to be the best that we can be wherever we end up. It’s more about the attitude than the action.
If you spend enough time with me you will discover that I don’t go to many extremes, but I like to find somewhere in between. (Why don’t we have both?)
I think we all have certain things that we are called to do, they may turn into our vocation or they may be specific actions along the journey. At the same time the attitude is fundamental, perhaps even more important.
If we, as people are able to act out in generosity, then that attitude will take any action that we do and make it amazing.
I’ve heard it so often. From so many people. Different types of people.
Amazing, thoughtful, loving people.
Angry, selfish, arrogant people.
Some are unwilling to even contemplate a different point of view and others almost make the statement as a question. ‘Charity begins at home…doesn’t it?’.
I don’t disagree with the statement. I’ve been a proponent for international aid and development for 15 years. I think we have a huge responsibility to our world for a number of reasons. But I’m not heartless. I care about those who suffer here in Australia. I care about those who are sick, hurting, homeless and living in poverty. And so, yes, charity does begin at home. But it does not end there and it certainly doesn’t mean that we can’t provide assistance for those suffering internationally at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive.
I often forget just how amazing life is here in Australia, just how great certain parts are. I was having a conversation with someone who migrated here over 10 years ago and when they visited their home country recently they were shocked by how unsafe they felt. Life in Australia had dulled their senses and they forgot that going about life without looking over their shoulder or trying to spot danger at every turn, isn’t normal. But it should be.
I’m not saying that every other country is unsafe, nor am I saying that Australia is perfect and nothing bad ever happens, but what we have here is a gift. A gift that we have done nothing to deserve, and one that I believe comes with a responsibility. Let’s support charity at home and everywhere else.