A fellow tither wrote recently to tell me a remarkable story. She was preparing for an extended trip with her husband, and she decided she’d better stock up on birdseed to replenish the feeder while they were gone.
I went to the grocery store and bought extra food for the birds and squirrels. When I got home with the food, my husband was upset.
“What are you buying more wild bird food for? They’ve got tons of it in that five-gallon container.”
I was caught by surprise. “Ah, well,” I said. “I want them to have plenty.”
“They have plenty! We’ll only be gone three weeks! Where’s the receipt? I’m taking it back.”
“I felt so humiliated. But I gave it to him. He looked at it briefly and threw it on the kitchen table.”
He then left the house and drove away. I began to talk to God and the saints.
It was an hour later when my husband returned. He told me, “You will not believe what happened to me. I was walking around talking to God about the bird food spending, and as I walked I saw a five-dollar bill lying on the ground. I bent over and picked it up.
“‘As I continued down the trail talking to God, a little further a flock of birds flew over my head, encircling me. I felt a beautiful rush of joy, and I looked down, and on the ground I saw a twenty-dollar bill.”
Twenty-five dollars was exactly the cost of the bird food. He gave me a big hug and apologized. I said to him, “I think God was talking to you, to let you know that it’s okay to give.”
Developing faith that God will take care of us in times of need takes a lot of courage. But it will seem quite “doable” if we remember that the process is directional. You only need to take a step at a time – but do take that step. Consciously try to give in some way, every day.
For example, every day try to find a situation at work where you can do something that is “not your responsibility.” Make it fun! Make someone a cup of coffee. Sweep out a spot in the office that needs a little cleaning. This will open the channels of giving, and you’ll experience how expansive and joyful the response will be in your own heart!
Another very important attitude is generosity, or as Swamiji puts it, “a generous spirit.”
“Most people think of generosity as merely the giving of material benefits to others,” he writes in Affirmations for Self-Healing. “More important, however, and much more satisfying is a generous spirit: a willingness to let the other person shine, even if it means being eclipsed oneself; a happiness in his good fortune, even if it means personal loss for oneself; a concern for his safety, even if, in an accident, one’s own property has been destroyed. “Generosity means, above all, recognizing that everything we have and are belongs to God alone, and is His to dispose of where He will.”
Here’s another helpful perspective on the concept of generosity:
“Most people think that Americans are generous because we are rich. The truth is that we are rich, in significant part, because we are generous. It is not surprising that Americans know so little about the economic impact of citizen generosity on the country’s growth. We tend to see giving as something that is just good and nice to do, which it is. We do not, unfortunately, recognize it as a major contributing factor in our economic, social, and political achievements as a nation.” – Claire Gaudiani, The Greater Good: How Philanthropy Drives the American Economy and Can Save Capitalism
Americans, by founding trusts and charitable foundations, give away billions of dollars each year. A few years ago I read a quote by a British journalist that sums up American philanthropy extremely well: “Philanthropy is so widespread, so staggering in its scale, so imaginative in its object, that in this country it manages to match all but the nation-wide efforts of government.” The cause of America’s success as a nation, more than most Americans realize, has always been its faith in God and its generosity.
Each one of us can make a difference, not only by contributing money to charity, but also by living with an attitude of generosity. Each time we think mostly of ourselves and end up “hoarding” a little money, the more we add to the mass consciousness in the world that manifests as greed. Each time we give and experience the expansive joy of giving, we give power to the enormous goodness in this world. We all have a choice each day as to which direction of consciousness we will support. Ultimately, for devotees, there is only one direction to choose – doing that which will expand our joy and change us, and the world, as we know it.
Joy to you!
– Dave Bingham
(Dave served for many years as director of the Ananda Tithing Ministry.)
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