But what does generosity look like? When we were developing our values, one of the objections to includling ‘generosity’ was the worry that people might think that it was all about money; that those who didn’t have much might feel excluded, and that it was all about increasing our income. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. We want to be a generous people because it reflects our generous God in whose image we were created. We can express generosity in many ways, before we even think about money. Here are two simple examples:
At the age of 17 I met a woman called Joy. If there was ever a person whose name didn’t fit their character, she was it. She was a very stern looking lady, with a very head-teacher type of character. I remember her well, because she was my Driving Instructor. Aside from here prickly nature, the thing I remember most about Joy is her generosity – which was expressed through encouragement. Even as I was crunching gears, clipping kerbs, brushing hedges (occasionally) and losing focus, she would be persistently encouraging. Of course she would correct me and teach me, she would point out my weaknesses (or as she would put it ‘you really need to work on…’) but she would always give more praise than I felt I deserved, and she would encourage even the slightest improvement. And her generosity with her encouragement helped me to grow in confidence, and to pass my test first time.
I once had the privilege of leading a small group of young people into their town centre to practice generosity. We had been given a some money and told to find ways to bless people. Towards the end of the afternoon, having blessed people in a number of different an unexpected ways, with mixed results, as we walked back through town to our meeting point we noticed someone sleeping rough on the street. We all sensed God challenge us that this was another opportunity to be generous. So we counted the little money we had left and decided we could afford a burger or a coffee from McDonalds. We approached the rough sleeper and said we’d like to bless him but that we only had enough for a coffee or a burger, so we asked what he needed most. His reply practically knocked us off our feet, and I can still remember what he said: ‘the thing I have needed most and longed for is just to be noticed & acknowledged‘. We stood in silence for what felt like minutes as we thought about what he’d said, then in an attempt to break the awkward silence someone asked again ‘what would you like?’. Again his response surprised us. ‘Would you just sit and talk to me?’ We sat on the cold, wet floor alongside him and chatted for 20 minutes as he told us his name (Mark), how he’d ended up on the street, that he was beginning to reconcile with his family, and that the next day he had a place in a hostel which was a step toward supported living accommodation. He gladly accepted our offer to pray for him, then after smiles and hugs, we left with our loose change still in our pockets, but our hearts full to bursting. Mark said we’d been really generous with our time and our company, but we were the ones who’d been blessed beyond measure.