I will never forget the summer I was flying home from college in upstate New York, to see my parents who were living in Tokyo, Japan. I flew from New York City to San Francisco to spend the night with my aunt and uncle. The next day, I was to fly to Tokyo. Back in those days, airlines issued paper tickets. I awoke the following day and realized I had lost my ticket. Remorseful and repentant, I made the international phone call to admit to my carelessness to my father. I was prepared to be reamed out. Instead, my father taught me an unforgettable lesson about generosity, by calmly buying me another ticket home to Japan.
I remembered this experience this morning because the first thought I had when I woke up was about money. "Why?" you may ask. Right now, at my church, we are in the middle of our annual Stewardship Campaign. I imagine other congregations who are doing the same thing. On one level, stewardship campaigns are all about raising money from the congregation to support the ministry of the church. Right now I am asking people to pledge to the church so that our work as a church can continue for another year.
Fundraising has never been the most joyful part of my call as a pastor. It takes a particular kind of person to be a fundraiser. Most people are uncomfortable talking about money and finances. But it is essential for us all to have these conversations about money and finances, mainly from the perspective of the practice of generosity.
Social scientists who study human behavior have found that people who practice generosity are physically healthier and emotionally happier than those who do not. There is a connection between the regular practice of giving of either our money and our volunteer time and our sense of purpose in life. The amount of money or time is not as significant as the consistent practice of that giving.
So here are some questions for you to ponder as you think about your journey to generosity.
• Generosity: When have you received it? When have you given it?
• When and how have you been generous last week, yesterday, last year?
• When and how have you been generous at work, at your house of worship, with your family and friends?
• What have you been generous with? Love, kindness, money, time, prayer?
• Who taught you about generosity most recently?
• Who taught you about generosity when you were younger?
• Who do you admire for their generosity?
• How do you make decisions about how to be generous?
There probably are lots of amazing stories about generosity in your life. If you're willing, I would love to hear them. And it's not a bad idea to share those stories with your family and friends.