On Giving


I have wracked my brains for a better word than ‘giving’, looking for something edgier, something less nice, less bleurgh. I don’t know why, but writing about giving feels uncool, prim and proper, old fashioned. Perhaps it is because of my years of staring at those discreet Anglican Gift Aid envelopes left in church pews and politely passing the collection bag around. Maybe it is because of our (rather British) trend towards cynicism. Perhaps it is some association with a sense of duty.

Rightly or wrongly, the word ‘giving’ conjures for me an impression of a stern older woman in a calf-length skirt wearing socks and sandals and a rather judgmental expression.

This kind of giving is not the kind that I want to write about! I want to write about the kind of giving that genuinely inspires me: an open-handed, generous, simple way of life. The kind of giving that doesn’t spring from a sense of duty, carefully measuring out 10%, but the kind that comes from a sense of gratitude and love.

I wrote here that I was beginning a Lent Experiment, trying to give something every day.  I’ve been trying to cultivate a natural disposition towards generosity, starting with small and simple daily acts of kindness. Nothing I’ve done so far has been grand or impressive – but it has been fun!

It turns out that – as much for the giver as for the receiver – giving is (prepare for a statement of the obvious…) surprising. Because of this, it’s a rather gleeful way of life.

One of the most surprising things about giving is that it is often easier than you think. Sometimes it takes an ounce or two of sacrifice or of courage, but once that first step is made, it is amazing how free and flowing – and yes, fun – it all becomes.

There’s that strange, old-as-the-hills concept that the more you give, the more full you are. Strange, but true. Seeing people happy fills you. Looking outside of yourself fills you. Love fills you.

Each small gift this month has made me richer, whether it has been a few sweets for friends, sending a parcel, giving someone a lift, cooking a meal or any number of other little things. These make me rich for many reasons, but not least because they bring me closer to the generous heart of God. I get the feeling that his Spirit in me revels in this whole giving thing, that He is brimming with enthusiasm for it all. For years on this blog, I’ve listed the ‘Small Things’ I’m thankful for – gifts that I think God has poured into my world. Now I’m having a great time trying to share around a few more.

Giving is not a duty, it is a delight.

If you would like some ideas for your own giving experiment, have a browse through my list below or go to Ann Voskamp’s site and get one of her free downloads for a month of giving.

  • Letters, cards, parcels
  • Prayers
  • Invitations
  • Phonecalls or messages
  • A meal
  • Something handmade
  • A favourite book, CD or film
  • A lift
  • An offer of babysitting
  • Something you do well – DIY, nail painting, fixing broken IT etc.
  • A visit/some of your time
  • A voucher
  • Encouragement
  • Flowers/plants
  • Sweets/cakes/food
  • Forgiveness
  • Inclusion
  • Clothes/stuff you don’t use
  • Listen
  • A job/chore that someone else was expecting to do
  • Share your family/pet with someone who doesn’t have them
  • Sponsor a child or set up a direct debit for a charity
  • A place to stay
  • Write to someone in prison
  • Visit someone in hospital

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