You are not a human being having a spiritual experience.
You are a spiritual being having a human experience.
- Wayne W. Dyer
To me, generosity is not so much about how much you give but the spirit with which you give, the way you move through the world. Many of us are taught to be generous with our good fortune: our financial resources, our talents, our time. What about when it’s more difficult to be generous? Are you generous during conflict? in rush hour traffic? when you’re anxious or overwhelmed? Are you generous when you feel the world has not been generous to you?
Generous With Your Word. During stressful times- family changes, decreased income, increased bills, health challenges- it can be easy to allow stress to change how you communicate with others. Before reacting to a tough situation, think about how you would respond if everything was in order. Owe money on a bill you don’t believe you owe? Before calling the debtor, imagine you have the resources needed to pay the bill. How might you approach the conversation differently? Will you be generous with your word choice? Will you ask if you can work together to resolve the situation? How would you want to be approached when it comes to someone being generous with their word with you? Generosity is much more than money.
Generous With Your Spirit. I once shared in a speech that more important than the checks I write is connecting with myself to see if I’ve been generous with my spirit. Someone in the audience wisely asked: it’s easy to measure generosity with our check book and the percentage of income we contribute, how do you know if you’re generous with your spirit? For me generosity of spirit is what Gandhi calls that “still small voice”. It’s when you know you have the opportunity to take the higher road and you can take it. When you know you could be “right” and instead you choose kind. When instead of seeking to be understood you seek to understand. When loving others includes everyone even those folks you don’t like so much. This practice I find remarkably more challenging than check-writing. What I have found is this: when I am generous with my spirit, money flows more readily and check-writing follows. When I am not areas in my life get stuck, including money. A generous spirit may take a different discipline than a generosity or giving plan and it may also just open up something in your life that you never expected.
Generous With Your Listening Heart. This summer, make a conscious decision to listen. No matter the temptation to interject your opinion, prep yourself for the great comeback, or dispense advice, be liberal with your listening. If you are listening and not waiting to be heard, what might you hear that can actually benefit you? If you are a fundraiser this may be the tool you need to integrate to truly understand the thinking, hopes and motivations of your donor partners. If you are a donor, you can further develop your skill of listening to what the deepest needs are of the projects you are involved in and supporting. Be generous with your listening heart and watch what begins to transform. And remember, generosity takes practice. So if you interrupt, don’t keep talking. Reel it back in and let the newfound generous heart listening commence!
Other articles by Kathy LeMay at Feminist.com:
Excerpt from The Generosity Plan: Sharing Your Time, Treasure, and Talent to Shape the World
Kathy LeMay is the founder, president, and CEO of Raising Change,
which helps organizations raise capital to advance social change agendas and individuals create Generosity Plans to help change the world.
LeMay, who began her global activism in war-torn Yugoslavia where she worked with women survivors of the siege and rape-genocide camps, has been a social change fundraiser for 15 years, raising more than $150 million dollars in the fields of women’s human rights, hunger and poverty relief, and movement-building. In addition she has directed an additional $100 million in philanthropic dollars to organizations working to make a difference. LeMay serves as an adviser and consultant to Fortune 100 companies, universities, international NGOs, and the United Nations. She is a sought-after speaker on strategies for social justice and empowering women to come into their voice.
In the year 2000 LeMay was nominated for a Reebok Human Rights Award for her 15 years of service as a human rights activist. She was named one of Business West Magazine’s “40 Under 40” and, in January 2010, she released her first book, The Generosity Plan, published by Simon & Schuster/Atria and Beyond Words. She is the recent recipient on the 2012 First One Access Award, which honors prominent public figures for their inspirational roles as the first in their families to get a college degree.
Kathy has appeared on numerous television and radio shows including Oxygen TV and The Oprah Show. She is a contributing columnist to World Pulse Magazine, where she also serves as the Board Chair. Kathy has also recently become a member of the Advisory Board at Feminist.com.