December 20, 2014

Take a Risk…Give Generously (31 Days to More with Less)

Oct15

Emmas handsTake a risk…give generously.

This picture of my daughter’s hands exemplifies my hearts desire – to generously open up my hands and heart to give of my resources. And not just give, but give generously.  The problem is that sometimes my heart’s desire conflicts with my actions.

As I type this, our eleven year old daughter is helping out at a neighborhood friend’s home. On a chilly morning, she was ready and waiting for him to pick her (and my nephew) up at 6:15 am to do chores that he can’t physically accomplish around his house. They love this time with him, and she has been helping for months now cutting the lawn, organizing, sweeping, weeding, cleaning – what ever needs to be done. She even came home once telling me that she squeezed grapes for a drink (now living in the country, that perked my ears, so I had to investigate). Yes, my daughter prepared grapes for his home made wine, which considering I never drink wine kind of cracks me up. At least it wasn’t moonshine. ;)

She works hard. She works thoroughly. She works for nothing (except maybe a Subway sandwich). She serves generously, and models for me the innocence of sacrifice and servant hood that has been so lost in our culture.

Planing my upcoming posts on making money from home, my entrepreneurial spirit screams, “She should start her own organizing business. She could be charging for this…She could make….”. While all of that would be wise, admirable and good, her acts of service still reminds me that in the midst of “31 Days to More with Less,” generosity of spirit should never be forgotten.

As I read the comments from yesterday’s post about Cheap vs. Frugal (which if you haven’t, you should…they are better than the post), a consistent theme continued to resonate with me. It’s a heart attitude. Many of us can get so caught up with saving money, that our fists become a vice grip on not just our money, but our spirit of generosity.

Last year, I got upset with my husband because he didn’t use the correct coupon for a product and $2 was wasted. Seriously? Shame on me. I asked for his forgiveness and then reminded myself  how blessed I am to have a husband willing to go into the store for me and even use coupons. That’s a real man.

As I felt myself leaning towards that clenched fist mentality with my money, I knew I needed to get my eyes off myself and do something radical. In the midst of our unemployment, it was easy for me to be radical with my time or to give generously of my gifts/talents, but give radically of my money? I just don’t have it to give was my initial response, but I knew it wasn’t about the amount, it was about heart and attitude.  My husband is a wonderful example of generosity, and led us to continue our tithing. We’ve learned that we can not out give God and He always provides in the midst of our difficult times.

I learned some of this through an afternoon at the grocery store.

Everyone needs to have a little splurge (which will be a later post), but I choose not to splurge on expensive Starbucks coffee drinks because I like their tall regular coffee just fine. I have never ordered one out of my own money, and I think that’s why I get so many gift cards there because people know that fact.  In the midst of a particularly difficult week, I was in line at my favorite Harris Teeter, which also hosts a Starbucks. A woman passed by my lane and asked my cashier what was so great about Starbucks. She had never had a Starbucks and didn’t really even know why it was a big deal? As a coffee lover, I gasped and knew I needed to be a part in changing that fact. I practically charged her and exclaimed, “You’ve never had a Starbucks? I want to remedy that fact. Follow me.”

Introducing myself to this bewildered woman, I told the Barista that my new friend had never been to a Starbucks and we needed to find her a special treat. What followed were ten minutes of sheer fun as I told her to pick anything that she wanted off the menu. This lady was a hoot and tested quite a few things. Watching her take a swig of her first black coffee was hilarious. You should have seen her face and how quickly she spit it out. ;) We warned her, but we were trying to give her the full experience. We finally sealed the deal when she tried the Carmel Macchiato. I paid the bill, gave her hug and exchanged a few special words with her as we parted.

I’ll never see her again, and she knows nothing about me. She probably just assumed I am some crazy, rich lady who goes around frequenting Starbucks, and buying expensive drinks for people. She’ll never know that in that moment, I took a step back and did a heart check. I walked to my car with eyes welled up with tears as I thought about my selfishness. Always considering myself a generous person,  I realized I had missed so many moments of sheer joy, like this one, because my financial fists had become so tight as we navigated tough waters. Giving generously, whether it be of your time, talents or financial resources gives back ten fold. The fact that this was just a spontaneous gesture to a stranger, made it all the more sweeter. Since then, I have shared Starbucks with a few other strangers just because…just because it’s something I would never do for myself. My desire is to cultivate a habit of giving generously, but it is a process.

Would you care to join me in this week’s challenge? Remember, it’s a heart thing…not the amount or the expectation.

( For me, giving anonymously is where I find my character being refined. Giving, with no expectation of receiving something in return, must be our  desire. I tried to find a way to share this without telling at least one example of my journey in this giving process, but  letting you know how this small act affected me was important.

31daysmore1251 This is What We are Striving Towards....Have you missed one of my “31 Days to more with Less” posts? Follow along here.



Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post. This something that I really needed to hear today.

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  2. A great story and a great lesson! And I would imagine that in your generosity amid your own “tough waters” you actually received more than you gave. I am not, by nature, a generous giver and I have to work at it. I always admire others who seem to give so generously and I want to be that way, too.

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  3. I just stumbled upon your website yesterday and I am in love! I just recently quit my job to stay home with our baby and I am having to learn to be a better manager of our money. In the past I was making a lot of money and I am realizing now how much I wasted! I love what you are teaching here and I know I am going to learn so much from you, I just wish I would have found you sooner. I loved this post- it brought tears to my eyes and inspired me to give more. Thank you for sharing your heart here and helping others like myself along the way!

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    The Social Homeschooler Reply:

    @Johnna, I had to learn the same lesson. Much better that you learn it early on then going down the path that we did.

    We relied on credit cards freely. Eventually a lay off led to more credit card debt, and then bankruptcy.

    I admire your desire to learn now how to better manage your money.

    God Bless, and enjoy the ride of new motherhood ;)

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  4. Thanks for this Jen. I am definitely in need of taking up this challenge. My husband is so generous and I have learned to bite my tongue most of the time so I don’t spoil his acts of giving. However, I want to do more than bite my tongue. I want to learn to rejoice in his generousity and to embrace opportunities of my own to be generous! Thanks for sharing.

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  5. I also need to give more. I struggle to allow myself to give more freely, whether time or money. Everyone seems to want my money and time and I find myself reacting in a self preservation mode, especially since I lost my job six months ago. When that happened, I become quite dedicated to coupon-ing and sales. While I knew we weren’t going to go hungry, it did make me aware of how easily that could happen to a family. I decided that every week I would spend 3 dollars of each weeks grocery bill towards the local food pantry. I would do my absolute best to get as much as I could with that 3 dollars, so all my “free” items also went. My local store (and region) is very expensive, but has good loss leaders, so week one was 3 jars of peanut butter and a box of muffin mix. The next week, 2 boxes of pasta and a jar of sauce, then 3 boxes of cereal. For some reason, despite it being a small monetary amount, it is a good amount of food, food I felt would be beneficial to a family, not junk, and I hope it does someone some good. It also teaches my daughter to give since she makes the drop into the donation box each week.

    Now I feel like I need to step it up again, and think of something more, but I haven’t figured out what that is yet. Thank you for reminding me to focus on it again!

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  6. This is so great! Here’s what I love to do, and it’s usually in December, when I’ve got some extra Christmas money: I’ll go through a drive-through (usually Wendy’s), & when I’m at the window to pay, I’ll tell the cashier that I want to pay for the car behind me. The look on their faces is priceless :) and I get to drive away with my Frosty, giggling that I just “paid it forward” for someone. I tell the the cashier to tell the car that Santa says hi, or Merry Christmas, or something fun. It’s only $4 or $5 or so, but so FUN!!!

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  7. Are you familiar with E. M. Forster’s “Howard’s End” and the concept of “paying rent to the ideal”? The ideal is the notion of giving generously of yourself, trusting in the basic goodness of mankind. The “rent” is the times that your generosity is abused or taken advantage of. Call it upkeep for humanity, or something. Cynicism is the enemy of generosity, I think….

    I think I’ll try your Starbucks trick sometime. Sounds like fun.

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  8. I just read your post this evening, and I find it quite inspiring. I haven’t posted online since my son’s death, but your words sparked something within me tonight. I guess it was because of the movie and this week’s work week, but whatever it was, I believe was meant to happen for a reason. I love your blog posts. Thanks for the inspiration :)

    Trixie

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  9. Our local Christian radio station has what they call the “Drive Thru Difference”. People can drive thru any place they choose and pay for the person behind them and leave a card telling them what just happend and if they’d like, to call the radio station to share their experience. The fun part of this is, it’s set up to be done on the first Friday of the month. Only thing is, people do it constantly throughout the month! =) Isn’t that awesome!

    Thanks for sharing.

    ~Mimi aka @bigguysmama

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    The Social Homeschooler Reply:

    @Mimi, I think I know which station you listen to. I listen online sometimes. ;)

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  10. Love your Starbucks story and wanted to share mine :)

    I’m now a SAHM, but two years ago (before the kiddo) I was assigned to a 6-month long project that had me working Monday-Friday in a city 4 hours away. I hated being away from my husband all week and always dreaded the drive on Monday mornings. Nearly every Monday morning I stopped at Starbucks on my way out of town and would pay for the person behind me – it was a great way to brighten up my morning a little :)

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  11. Back before we had our children and I went to work part-time (in other words we had a good bit of extra money), we used to give anonymously to a single mother in our church. It was such a blessing to be able to provide for her something we knew she needed. You’ve reminded me how this feels…how I long to be able to do this again…even on a smaller scale. I think the feeling will still be the same…thanks :-)

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  12. I enjoyed reading this. As wonderful as the experience with the Starbucks lady was though, there are so many ways to share that joy with people in a joyful but practical way as well.

    We are in the midst of unemployment with out a penny to waste. But yet we are able to share in the blessings and abundances that God gives. We don’t have money to buy things for people. We do have time, physical ability, fresh produce (my husband delivers on Saturdays, and we receive a discounted box), a frugal spirit, and a special care for the homeless and needy. Recently God has given us an abundance of really nice hand-me-down boys clothes from people from near and far. Some we can use, but there is more than my two boys can wear.

    These are things that God blesses us with. Then He watches us for our response to the blessings that are over and above what we can use. Those that can be trusted with little will be trusted with much, according to the Bible.

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    Jens Reply:

    Absolutely – my Starbucks example was not a practical one, but that act was meant for my learning. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be doing another post on ways to give on a limited budget and these are many great examples. :)

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  13. Sallie Baker says:

    Loved this post. I love giving anonymously. Alot of people don’t get that, and like you explained, not something you really tell people about.
    Loved the Starbucks story….will tuck that idea away!

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  14. This brings to mind my Mom’s way of dealing with those on the side of the road, asking for help. Rather than give cash that can be spent in places we know will do no good, I keep $5 McDonalds gift cards in the visor of my car. In my neck of the woods, most of those holding signs asking for help are around interstate exit ramps….as are most McDonalds. A warm coffe or a small meal trumps cash every time.
    By the way, my son and I love to pay for the meal of the person behind us at drive thrus too! It feels so good!!

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  15. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

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  16. Well, your post hit a nerve with me in my heart, as I just had a spat with my hubby about some of his driving habits that I have held onto for far too long and finally had to share with him. (I am sure he has a list a mile long of my annoying habits too, BTW and I told him so) but after sharing with him how uncomfortable I am with some of them….I felt stupid. Now I read your post about the coupon issue, and I would be the same way, upset if he didn’t use the $2 coupon! – and honestly, I don’t see the blessing that I have same as you with a husband who will go to the grocery at the drop of a hat to do me & our family a favor AND use coupons too! He does it with a smile and bounces out the door. What foolishness do I feel now, having had an “all about me” conversation about his small driving habits. Now it is shame on me – thank you for the reminder – now that is true giving my friend – keeping us real and giving perspective!

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  17. Love it! Our biggest lesson in life, thus far, as parents came last year as our daughter mentored a mildly retarded little girl in the Special Olympics. Each Friday afternoon, as others went to the park and home to play, our daughter met with mentally and physically handicapped children to practice with them for the Spring Games. This spring, for a brief moment, we were able to walk with Sophia and show her grace. At the awards ceremony our daughter smiled, supported Sophia (literally) and cried when Sophia received her awards and thanked her. It was then that I realized our daughter “got it”. We have since added SPCA volunteers, school volunteers and childrens choir to our list of ‘cheerful giving’. Today, our son asked to come to big church with us tomorrow. Carefully choosing our words, I told him he could not come to big church with us because some of the material we were discussing was not child appropriate. He asked what and I told him that we raised money and sent missionaries to Sri Lanka and to other countries near Sri Lanka to try to save little girls who had been stolen and made into slaves. I told him that was as much as I could share. When we returned home our son said, “I really want to sell my candy or have a fundraiser. I have got to find a way to raise money so that we can help our missionaries save those little girls”. The tiny bit of information we gave our son doesn’t touch the tip of the proverbial “industry” we were speaking of. To think that he simply knew children were stolen and wanted to help them moved me. Today, he “got it”. I wish I had “gotten it” at an earlier age and I must commend you for instilling these values in your children at such a young age! :) XOXO

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  18. For years, I have asked to have a generous heart. I am very guilty of holding my fist tight. I give of my time but have felt even that was measured. It’s explainable if you look at my childhood years but not in terms of how I am asked to live and love as a child of God. Jesus finally spoke to my heart recently and asked me to simply start giving. I will admit, this is hard for me but when I do I am blessed beyond measure. I also see that I can do with a little (or a lot) less security and really live for a change.

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  19. Pamela C. says:

    This one really spoke to me. My son came to live with us three years ago after having been hospitalized with viral meningeal ensephalitis. It has left his with uncontrolled epilepsy even while taking four seizure medications at their highest dosages. He had always loved his X-Box and at one point we thought that he might be able to play videos games, but it has turned out that he can’t. He knew our pastor would love to have an X-Box but could never justify spending that much with a new baby on the way. Not only did my son give him his X-Box but he also wanted to use some of his money to buy him a game. Now my son has medical bills to pay and my mind was thinking sell it on ebay…but he wanted to give something special to our pastor. I really didn’t have to think twice about letting him do this. I just wish that giving it to somebody who really could use it and probably couldn’t afford it would have been my first thought. The ensephalitis has caused many problems for my son, but it has also increased his love for helping others and for that I am thankful.

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  20. Reading this oh so many years later (Google) reminds me of why I give generously. My auntie told me that “charity begins at home” when I mentioned I give to charity a lot. She would pass out in horror if she knew I spent £100 ish on the wild birds in around two weeks so that they can fill their stomachs and quench their thirst.

    It makes my heart happy though helping others!!!

    I am also the same when it comes to friendships/family and quite willing to offer them things…I try and offer my time but alas I have fibromyalgia bleh so I barely have time for myself but I still try and help people where I can mostly with guidance through university. I became a mentor which 99% of the time is unpaid so I don’t think many understand why I do it. :)

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