A Generosity “Tune-Up”

I stumbled across a philanthropy blog that piqued my interest. Sasha Dichter, the blogger, mentioned an interesting concept called “Generosity Day.” In fact, he gives a talk about his generosity experiment on Ted.com.

Apparently, this is an opportunity to say “YES” to everything for one full day. Here’s how he put it:

“Ironically, in our pursuit of better solutions, we continually reinforce our own practice of turning things down – things that don’t meet our “evolved” criteria of good social work.  The end result of this is atrophy of our generosity muscle, since anything that is underused withers away in time.

The intentional practice of generosity is a way to strengthen this muscle, to get us more comfortable using it, and to make using it a more regular part of our lives.

That’s very different from claiming that saying “yes” to everything is the best kind of philanthropy.  It isn’t.  But philanthropy that doesn’t incorporate generosity doesn’t make sense in my book.”

I liked how he talked about generosity as an “intentional” practice.  Setting an intention to do something helps with accountability.

He also said:

“Most of the time I don’t give to people on the street. It seems to make sense, rationally, not to give most of the time — and instead to give to great organizations that are doing things for the homeless. Perhaps, but it’s easy to take this too far. 

Giving is an act of self-expression, and generosity is a practice. Each time I decide not to give, I’m reinforcing a way of acting – one that’s critical and analytical and judgmental.”

I feel the same way about giving liberally to anyone I see- I hesitate and think, “Well, maybe I should give to an organization that can help this person. Maybe this person will spend it on alcohol. Maybe they’ll…” and on and on. Perhaps I should take a closer look at my judgments about giving and generosity and see what could change.

Sasha decided to “reboot” Valentine’s Day and turn it into “Generosity Day”:

 “…one day of sharing love with everyone, of being generous to everyone, to see how it feels and to practice saying ‘Yes.’ Let’s make the day about love, action and human connection–because we can do better than smarmy greeting cards, overpriced roses, and stressed-out couples trying to create romantic meals on the fly.”

I’d like to try this and see what it feels like to stretch my “generosity muscle”.

Will you join me in trying this out on February 14th?

If so, set an intention and declare it publicly. That will make it feel more real and heartfelt.

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1 Response to A Generosity “Tune-Up”

  1. Hi Elizabeth – I am so in love with the Generosity Day idea. Like Valentine’s Day though I feel like it should be expressed every day of the year. Sasha’s idea of building the generosity muscle is a good one. Like anything you do if you make a conscious effort it eventually becomes a habit. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.

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