Rediscovering the Joy of Living Generously

Family celebrates joy of birthday

Going Deeper Than Decluttering

When I was a teenager, millionaire Malcom Forbes quipped “he who dies with the most toys wins” and it quickly became a popular bumper sticker and T-shirt slogan. Nowadays, the saying is more likely to be used as an ironic meme, but we continue to put an enormous amount of time and energy into accumulating and managing our possessions. And they still don’t bring true happiness, even when we organize them according to one of the latest bestselling books. I think this is because our perspective on “stuff” is just as skewed today as it was when that bumper sticker phrase was first coined.

Instead of seeking joy in buying (and then celebrating getting rid of) our stuff, we need to rediscover the essential joy of living generously in the first place.

In my role at Abundance Canada, I have the privilege of working closely with men and women who are deeply generous, willing to give without hesitation. While we do help them arrange giving plans that best navigate tax implications and simplify the administration of charitable donations, these benefits aren’t what motivates their giving. Time and again, they demonstrate their honest desire to give the first and best of what they have. It never fails to inspire me.

Grow Joy by Giving Generously

I have met families that forgo Christmas and birthday presents so they can donate the money they would have spent to local agencies that ensure others have food and gifts. Several years ago, generosity spread amongst neighbourhood school children.

When one boy had his eleventh birthday, he asked his friends and family to give pet food for the local animal shelter instead of gifts for himself. His family had recently adopted a cat and he wanted to help the shelter feed the many other dogs and cats in their care.

Shortly after, a friend of his heard about a need for baby formula at the food bank and asked her birthday guests to bring baby formula instead of gifts to the party.

When another late-summer birthday came around, the birthday girl asked her friends to bring school supplies and her party activity included packing backpacks for a local agency that helps families in need prepare for the new school year.

Recently, some of my middle-aged friends have asked for donations to their favourite charities in lieu of gifts for milestone birthdays. When many of us are feeling overwhelmed by stuff or know that we have enough, this is an easy way to turn what could be a time of gathering more into a time of giving.

Generous Living in Action

Going even further, I know some families who have set a ceiling on their lifestyle. They live comfortably but choose to spend less than their income might permit. They live in modest homes, limit luxuries, and forego expensive vacations. They then donate the money they might have spent on themselves to the causes they believe in.

They have helped students to pay their tuition, provided people who are struggling financially with food and other supports, helped families move into safe and affordable housing, and assisted communities recovering from disaster. Instead of acquiring more and decluttering later, these families take great joy in seeing their generosity in action today.

Generosity sparks incredible joy in the world. So, even though choosing to live generously might mean you never take that popular selfie with your perfectly sorted drawers or bags of decluttered stuff, you might find yourself taking a photo with someone you’ve helped in a meaningful way.

And isn’t that an even better way to win!

Contributed by Sherri Grosz
Gift Planning Consultant

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