“Go on, sing”.
That was the encouragement from the three friendly faces that stared back at me as I sat there, tentatively playing some chords on my guitar. It had been a while since I had sung in front of people who were not my small children, who would normally end up sitting on my lap to ‘help’ me play, demanding Encanto, then the Wiggles and then falling asleep on me. I was pretty sure that wouldn’t happen in this setting, so I decided to obey.
I wouldn’t call it an extraordinary gift, but it was a vulnerable part of myself that I risked sharing with them that night and they ‘seemed’ to appreciate it – nobody walked out, and they said nice things afterwards. (I have trouble taking and believing complements – that’s a whole other thing).
It got me thinking about what we share with the people around us. Often, the things that seem the scariest to share with others are the very things that they appreciate. Having someone give something of themselves with you feels good. Be that a musical talent, some writing they are working on, or a creative thought they are mulling over. It says that they trust you, care about you and that you are valuable to them. And most times it has a positive impact on how you feel and your time together.
Even if I made that night a tiny bit better with what I shared, it was worth the risk.
“This is for you dad.”
You probably know the look very well. The large, expectant eyes of a small child, that is handing you, what can only be called a ‘picture’.
I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have been given drawings that were supposedly of me, or pieces of half-eaten food, or bits of paper with precious rubbish wrapped up in them by my kids, or other people’s kids as a precious gift. All of which I gratefully accepted, not because I wanted them, but because accepting the gift was an act of generosity. It gave my kids the chance to experience what is was like to give something away that they worked hard on, or meant a lot to them. They could learn about giving gifts that other people would actually want later, in that moment, it was more important for them to experience being generous.
Most people would agree with that. But it doesn’t just stop with kids learning how to give.
There have been other times in my life when someone has tried to be generous to me and I refused the gift. Not because I didn’t want it, but because it felt like too much. I felt insecure and inadequate, and like I would be a freeloader if I accepted it. So, I said no.
There is nothing wrong with saying no, but there are times when accepting a gift is an act of generosity because of what it gives the person who gives it. We know that there are many benefits when we give and it’s important not to rob people of that experience when they are trying to give to us.
In saying that, there are definite times to say ‘no’…(more to come on this)
“When you have faith in others you give them an incredible gift.”
John Maxwell & Jim Dornan
I am not great at buying presents. I have a real challenge every time a birthday, anniversary or other celebratory event comes around. I find it difficult to think about what items or experiences people will enjoy and value, and I do have a fear of failure when it comes to buying a gift for someone. As the Generosity Guy, this is a little embarrassing to admit.
My wife, on the other hand, seems to have a superpower in present buying. I don’t know how she does it, but somehow, she just knows what people are missing in their life and will find the perfect gift for them.
I take solace in the fact that I am not the only person in the world who struggles with this and we all have different strengths when it comes to showing love and affection for each other.
One gift that you can give to anyone, no matter who they are, is your belief. We may think that we live in a world where there is too much positive reinforcement and encouragement, but I don’t think that is even possible. So many ideas are idle, so many plans are stagnant, so many abilities are untapped because the right person hasn’t come alongside and said “I think you should give this a go”. Knowing that another person has faith in you, even if you don’t have faith in yourself is the greatest gift.
Money is spent. Resources get used. Help creates a cycle of dependence. But if you can give someone faith, space for them to grow, develop and realise that they are capable of greater things than they have ever imagined, it puts them on the path to success. That is a gift that continues to have an impact.
The conversation about emotional wellbeing is stronger now than it has ever been. We are all conscious of what wellbeing means to us and our community, but we are still a work in progress when it comes to putting good practices in place.
I came across some research from the New Economics Foundation about the things that we can do which promote wellbeing in our lives, guaranteed. It’s a bold statement, but here are five proven things you can do right now…
- Connect to the people around us – building relationships with people
- Being active in our bodies – looking after our physical health
- Take notice of the world – connecting with nature, seeing beauty in the things that have become normal.
- Learn New Skills – trying something new and challenging ourselves
- Give to others – being generous.
All five are about looking beyond our current situation and seeking to change the place we are currently in. Generosity really rounds this list out.
Generosity is good for whatever ails you because it shifts your focus from you. Instead of being trapped in your own mind, ruminating on your own thoughts and challenges, it pushes you to reach out to someone else who may be in the exact same situation. A generous act of checking in on someone to see how they are going, buying them a coffee, giving some time and attention to them, is an incredible gift…to you.
Give yourself a gift by giving to someone else.
There is an old saying,
“Do not cast your pearls before swine.”
For the longest time I didn’t understand it, as I tried to imagine what pigs would do with a bunch of pearls. Until one day I opened up to someone about an emotional challenge that I had, and they threw it back in my face.
It was in that moment that I realised I had given someone one of the most precious things that I had, part of myself, and they treated it like scraps. They stomped all over it and eventually consumed it, spat it back out and then consumed it again (that’s what it felt like anyway). As I witnessed this take place, horrified, I realised that this person mistreated my treasure, not because they wanted to but because they couldn’t treat it any other way. They simply didn’t know how to. Just like pigs would treat pearls.
I quickly learned who I could trust with that which was most precious to me, and who I couldn’t.
Honesty and transparency can be gifts of great worth that we give to other people, but not everyone will treat them with the respect and care that they require. So we need to be cautious with who we give these gifts to, or be confident enough in ourselves and our own worth, that it won’t matter how people respond to being presented with this treasure.
Generosity is risky. It is dangerous. But the depth of relationship and intimacy that can be created through honesty and transparency are worth taking the risks and facing the dangers.
Have you ever thought about what people are missing out on because you are not growing? What impact is it having on those around you when you are stuck doing the same things you have always done, knowing the same things you always knew, being the same person you always were? It may not sound like a big deal and maybe personal growth is not your ‘thing’, but it’s not about you. It’s about the people that you love that are in your life, and then then people that they love that are in their lives. We owe it them to be the best version of ourselves so that we, in turn, can help them be the best versions of themselves…and so on.
Here’s a harsh truth: If you think you are currently the best you can possibly be, you’re not. (Ouch). There is always more. There are things that you don’t know yet that will change the way you turn up when you learn them. There are things that you don’t know how to do yet which will be groundbreaking in your life and in those around you; groundbreaking in the sense that it will break new ground so you can build something new on it.
There is always more to learn. Always more to discover. Always more to understand. Not so that you can get to the finish line of learning, but so you can improve and make everything you touch just that little bit better.
How many people can reap the benefits of your growth?