To BE GIVING is something that feels ingrained in me since I was little, and continually reinforced throughout my life. My college’s motto is Freely Ye Received, Freely Give and my father’s life mantra is that Life is defined by what you do for fellow traveler’s along the way. I recall moments of my childhood when my parents’ generosity seemed endless… from having an unemployed stranger down on his luck join us at our Thanksgiving table, to gathering clothes for the family who lost their home the prior night in a fire, to being willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice because a friend needed company or a chat. I feel grateful to have a giving spirit so engrained in me that I can’t imagine myself without it. Yet, as I’ve grown older and life’s become “busier” (a word I really dislike but have yet to remove from my vocabulary), I realize that it takes work… a lot of continual work… to truly BE GIVING.

I am guilty of being “giving” when it is convenient for me… and not that one shouldn’t, but I don’t think that embodies the true spirit of generosity. But I do it anyway… I have auto payments set for charities I want to support, and I set time with friends on my calendar, and volunteer on occasion when it fits well in my schedule. But for me, to be truly giving means a sense of generosity even when it isn’t convenient, and when it doesn’t fit nicely into my plans. Foregoing my perfectly planned evening with a glass of wine and a book to meet a friend in distress for coffee, or to help a friend move… to stop and chat with the homeless man on the street and share my lunch with him, when I’ve been dreaming about that leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwich all morning and I’m in a rush to my next meeting.

I’ve learned that to BE GIVING is less about being generous with my finances, and more about being generous with myself. The gift of time is the most precious gift we can give, and to share my time with someone else is meaningful these days. And to give of ourselves, to give our attention, to share our vulnerabilities, is incredibly rare in the digital world we live in now. I think we are all, myself included, craving connection these days. We long for meaning, we crave touch, we desire a break from our loneliness.

Give an unexpected hug, stop a moment longer to ask someone how they’re really doing, buy someone in line behind you their coffee this morning, answer that call when it’s inconvenient… what does it mean to BE GIVING to you?

As for being giving with yourself… that’s something we’re going to touch on next.