“Giving practice shows us where we’re holding back, where we’re still clinging. We start with our well laid plans, but life blows them apart. From a gesture of generosity, true letting go will evolve. Our conventional perspective will begin to change.” Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You
One of my fears about simpler living is that I’m going to become less generous when I have less income. Previously when I had a lower income and debt, I never felt like I had much $ to give. Charity was the first thing to be cut in the budget spreadsheets I obsessed over.
My current employer is a great supporter of charitable giving, matching every $ I donate. During the first company meeting I attended, there was a call for people who donated to our giving campaign at the leadership level to stand. I vividly remember being shocked when a peer sitting next to me stood up. Although he supported a family of 6, he was donating at least $1000/year. Inspired, each year I have upped the $ I donated, pushing through a lot of “what about me?” whines until I became more comfortable with it. Giving has been an exercise in combatting selfishness as well as a lesson in interconnectedness. In being generous with others, I see how I also benefit.
It wasn’t until earlier this year when I read a post by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist that I thought even bigger. He discusses the benefits of always giving away at least 10%, even when there is little income. My mind was blown. Could I actually open my heart and wallet and stretch to 10%? This 10% could not come out of necessary savings but would require a budgeting trade off elsewhere – like eating out less in order to give more to the animal shelter. I finally started thinking beyond charitable donations with a tax receipt – giving to friends who posted requests for financial help to attend courses and supporting crowd-funded projects.
I am grateful that my current job has helped me feel secure enough to share more $ and be less selfish. I get a lot of happiness from this now but I can also see how much my ego likes me in this role as a wanna-be-benefactor. When explaining my corporate job to friends who are employed in areas of good works, I hear myself adding “my job enables me to support charities that are important to me.”
And so it recently hit me: why am I equating generosity with $? When did I become this asshole? I think in getting stingier with my time because of work, I felt like $ was the only thing I had to give.
With simpler living, I want to stop associating generosity with only $. And, although I confess it seems challenging and frightening with a much smaller income, I’m going to strive to budget for and give 10% of it. But more importantly, I want to revisit other ways to be generous – sharing my time with family and friends, communicating more through email and cards, volunteering and other good acts. And I will remind myself often that I can always afford to be generous.
The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön
Becoming Minimalist: 8 Countercultural Decisions to Find Financial Freedom