“It is important to understand, some people are wired to give and others are not. The sooner you can figure out how the person is wired, the sooner you can determine if you should spend time with them or not.”

Recently I attended an excellent seminar on philanthropy. I have spent a significant amount of my adult life inviting individuals and organizations to consider giving to something I felt passionate about. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the seminar, I have to tell you the above statement from one of the presenters could not be more inconsistent with my experience. I believe all of us have the capacity to give. And, all of us are still growing into what giving looks like for us.

Many of us grew up in families with high expectations for generosity. This generosity was to be manifested in giving of time, talent and treasure. We were taught to pitch in, to use what we were good at to assist others, and to share our financial resources. Others of us grew up in families that did not emphasize generosity. Both contexts have the potential for being framed in a transactional paradigm. I give because of what I will receive. Or, I don’t give unless I am going to get something in return. The antitheses of this transactional expectation is what theologian Richard Rorh calls a ‘gift economy’ – where there is no equivalence (and I would add expectation) between what we give and how much (if any) we get.

In my opinion the presenting issue is how we understand gift and giving. Where do our gifts come from and how are they to be used? If we embrace a mindset that our gifts belong solely to us, are finite and are for our exclusive use, then it is likely we will be tight fisted with said gifts. If we understand that our gifts have been freely given to us and that they actually increase the more we share them, we likely to live in a space of generosity.

In this season of giving and receiving of gifts, may we embrace with joy the blessing sharing our gifts.

The Spirit whispers,
the ancestors agree.
You are star born
and God loved;
The universe awaits
your gifts. —Barbara Holmes, Race and the Cosmos

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