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Explore: Generosity

Learn: Generosity

From this spring's tornadoes that devastated Joplin, Missouri, and ravaged one of the poorest neighborhoods in Minneapolis to the recent flooding in Minot, North Dakota, (not to mention the mini-flood we helped clean up in my cousin's Northeast Minneapolis basement following heavy rains this past weekend), generosity has seemed to rise like a phoenix from disaster.

  • With more than 170,000 fans the Joplin MO Tornado Recovery Facebook Page has become an active headquarters connecting people with up-to-date information, resources and requests for volunteers and supplies.
  • To date, Minnesota Helps--North Minneapolis Recovery Fund has raised more than $1.3 million toward housing and human service needs of residents impacted by tornado damage. Last week, a local grocery chain donated $30,000 plus supplies to three North Minneapolis faith-based organizations that are helping set local residents on the path to recovery.
  • While cleanup in Minot has only recently begun, efforts are being well-coordinated online. Volunteers can register and residents can request volunteer assistance at this site. Both the city and this Rally Minot site offer valuable and up-to-date information for residents, visitors who want to help and those who’d like to donate funds.

What is generosity?

To paraphrase Dictionary.com’s definition, generosity is abundant and unselfish giving; giving liberally without expecting anything in return.

Why do we respond to devastation with generosity? What fosters our reaction of generosity? In their book The Power of Serving Others, Dean Nelson and Heart to Heart International founder Gary Morsch explain that generosity, according to scientific research, is programmed into human wiring. The book also cites a sociologist whose research shows that disaster victims pitching in together not only help each other rebuild physically but also help one another heal emotionally.

How can we give, what can we do?

Nelson and Morsch tell a story about an 80-year-old woman who gave her time and used a simple red balloon to entertain a rambunctious homebound toddler. In her book 29 Gifts, Cami Walker describes her joy in giving seashells to a little girl building a sandcastle on the beach. Nicole Bouchard Boles offers more than 300 ways to give what you have in her book How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist. Kids at my daughters' school used donated scrapbook paper to make small blank books to sell to students for a quarter each; they raised more than $300 to help the school buy Smart Boards.

These no- or low-cost gifts help shine a light on the simplicity of generosity. As Mother Teresa has said, "We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with love." We can shine a 1000-watt spotlight or a tiny penlight on our gifts; no matter the light, it's all generosity if it's given in the spirit of love.

 

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