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A program of The Mussar Institute 

Generosity Week — Day 6

Alan Morinis, Dean, The Mussar Institute: “The Joy of Giving and the Joy of Receiving

Please watch Alan Morinis’s 7-minute video:

Alan Morinis's video


Generosity is very much tied to the “well being” we all strive for, and Alan’s story about downsizing and sharing possessions contains a valuable lesson for us all. A generous act as simple as sharing flower pots created such a positive exchange—making each person both a giver and a receiver. In a culture of accumulation, there is something to be said for simplicity, The Mussar Insituteand we needn’t wait until we’re downsizing to put this lesson into practice. While most of us haven’t crossed the boundary into hoarding, we do suffer “accumulation-itis.” We continue accumulating and hanging onto things we no longer have a need for. What is keeping us from sharing our excess bounty of possessions with those who actually do have need of these things?

If we subscribe to the belief that we have everything we truly need and we need the things we have, that leaves the question, what do we do with the rest of the stuff—the stuff we have, but don’t need? What keeps us from opening our hearts and hands and being more generous? What keeps us from recognizing the connection between ourselves and others and accepting the responsibility for giving and receiving in ways that help us grow spiritually?

Sometimes it’s fear. Fear tells us that we don’t have enough to share, to spare; we might even see sharing as creating a loss for ourselves. Interestingly, statistics show that generosity doesn’t have anything to do with how much we have. In fact, as people earn more money or gain more possessions, they don’t become more generous. Generosity is both an attitude and an action. And we have the ability to choose to be generous and to be caring and sharing. The truth is that being generous brings us joy and fulfillment, things that can’t be bought by having more for ourselves. Generous people are happier, healthier people. Generosity enriches us in so many ways.

Generosity must be an ongoing practice if it is to become engrained in who we are. To strengthen and build generosity muscles requires continued practice: it’s not something that you do and then check off your list. Developing a habit of regularly sharing possessions that you no longer need or even want any longer is an easy place to start. Take a look around your home, in your closet, your kitchen cabinets, on your book shelf, in your garage, your office: are there items there that you longer use that could be a real blessing to someone else? It’s winter time—think about those who need warm coats, boots, blankets—don’t we all have something to share? Local food banks are a wonderful place to share with neighbors in need. Dress for Success accepts donations of professional clothing that can help someone land a job and become self-sustaining. What organizations in your community provide a link between your excess and someone else’s need?

Put this practice to the test: commit to mindfully sharing and then share with us the results. Don’t wait for another Generosity Week to roll around, get started now! And, as a further act of generosity, share your responses, experiences and insights on our Facebook page so that we might learn from one another as we build our generosity muscles.

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