I would like to invite you all to look at the ways we can ignite small acts of kindness for the twelve months of 2014 that will generate energy powerful enough to enhance a common good in our communities.
It was ten o’clock and I was walking down the Madison Avenue after yet another glamorous event in New York City. With the first snow falling on Manhattan, I heard the words of Elizabeth Taylor buzzing in my head:
Take away all of the money, all of the jewels, all of the fame. I’ve had those; I’ve enjoyed them; I understand them. I can live without them.
With temptation to idolatry, celebrity culture and all things material, I could not help but wonder: how are we to live? What is the major lesson we could all take to 2014? What is it we could teach both ourselves and our beautiful children for the next twelve months to come? With holiday season approaching and friends and families gathering around the sparkling Christmas tree, how are we to increase altruistic motivations in children? What are the acts of generous behavior we can encourage in our families, neighborhoods, communities?
Twelve Acts of Generous Giving is an idea I would like to propose for 2014. I would like to invite you all to look at the ways we can ignite small acts of kindness for the twelve months of 2014 that will generate energy powerful enough to enhance a common good in our communities. The theory of generous giving is a theory of human solidarity and you can contribute to it too by setting up the example and encouraging your friends, colleagues and neighbors to do good deeds.
Encouraging generous behavior
Generosity is a model of behavior that can be encouraged and taught. In The Passions of the Soul , Descartes suggests that generosity is the key of all the virtues and in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche reaffirms the idea that generosity is the highest virtue. In the context of human behavior, altruism, from the Latin root alter or the other, concerns the place of the other in moral experience, especially when the other is in need. An altruist acts for the benefit of others as an end in itself. The act of altruism has to be free of expectations and never a means for public recognition and self-promoting behaviors.
Having this higher end in mind we can expose our children to the virtuous role models and generous models of behaviors that can actually enhance the society for the next ten years. But we do not even need to go that far. Let’s commit to just one year, let’s commit to 2014, let’s set up an attainable goal for ourselves, our children and our families. All we have to do is to come up with twelve meaningful acts of generous giving, a New Year’s resolution that may include money, but surpasses it by creating a special meaning between the giver and a receiver.
Nurturing the practice of giving
There are no Big and Small givers. Media is one who gave prominence to “high-profile giving”. While money and donations are one of the manifestations of generosity, some may think that they would never be able to compete with multi-million dollar donations of Warren Buffet, Malcom Forbes and Bill Gates. So how generous is generous enough?
One needs only to read Paul’s second letter the Corinthians to understand that in acts of kindness and generosity, everyone is equal : “The one [who gathered] much had no excess, and the one [who gathered] little had no lack.” Those words suggest the idea that giving is not a lessening as it springs from an inner fullness.
How can we rethink philanthropy and creative ways to give to others? It all starts with posing a good question: How can I help? How can I be of service? What can I do today to put a smile on child’s face? How can I contribute to setting a child on the road of success? The biggest problem in making a difference-and this particularly applies to overachievers- is that we think we have to do something really grand in order to change the world. But every small step counts as it generates the life-affirming energy that ignites good, positive feelings in the lives of others. Sometimes, the child who is struggling only needs a word of encouragement from someone who has already succeeded.
What can come to our list of Twelve Acts of Generous Giving for 2014: A smile. A praise. An inspiring story. A home cooked meal. A card. A warm blanket. A notebook and a pen. A tennis racquet. A picture with a childhood hero. You can donate you time or an idea. You can create a CD of pleasant, loving, relaxing music for someone who is in the hospital. You can donate a book and read a story to a child. You can offer a pleasant tone of voice, a hand on the shoulder in time of grief. Let’s create this generous open space that unites the ideas of gift, grace, and blessing.
Giving is not a duty
The Art of Giving is entirely responsive. One of the most beautiful traits I noticed about Novak Djokovic is that he will always stop and talk to people. He will make himself available and be present in a moment with complete strangers. As Nelson Mandela once said:
What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.
Let’s start the journey of generosity. There is always something we can do. There is always something we can give. It is in our power to make a difference by letting the love out of our hearts. Looking in the eyes of a happy child is a gift of receiving, it’s the joy of giving, the most meaningful act of generous giving set out with a good intent of making a better world.
May Your Twelve Acts of Generous Giving ignite the year 2014!
With Love, Ksenija Pavlovic
Featured image by Stephen Eastop: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/967885