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A Chance to be Radically Generous

Written by MJ Ryan, SheEO Development Guide

Last week I wrote about the power of gratitude to bring us happiness and give us a sense of connection to the all that we have been given. This week, I want to talk about the other side of gratitude—radical generosity. To me, they are not two separate things, but part of one cycle, like the breath. We breathe in the goodness in our lives, whatever that might be, and experience a sense of fullness.

From that fullness comes the outbreath of generosity, giving back from a sense of overflow. Filling up and spilling over…. Part of the giving and receiving of nature that has been going on since we drew our first breath—we take in oxygen from plants and give back carbon dioxide.

We at SheEO give money, expertise and connections to support social enterprises that pay it back to the community so that the funds can be given out again endlessly. We call what we do radical generosity because it’s off the ledger sheet—we do it not to get something in return, like a tax receipt or a big investor payday. Rather we do it to participate in the gift economy that has been part of indigenous wisdom for centuries. In the gift economy, we give not just to meet a need–you need something and I have it so I am happy to give it–but to create a relationship between giver and receiver, and, by paying the gift forward, co-create a network of community relationships. 

Like with gratitude, there is now all kinds of research on the power of generosity to make us happier and healthier. Here are two studies that I find truly amazing: Generosity is such an immune booster that just watching a video of Mother Theresa helping babies in India increased the immune function of viewers. And students who practice five random acts of kindness a week were found to be significantly happier than a group of journalers.

That’s why, when I heard about #GivingTuesday, a global day of generosity started in 2012 which is happing on December 1 this year, I knew I had to write about it. The creators of #GivingTuesday hope to “unleash the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world” with “the catalytic power of generosity…at the heart of the society we build together, unlocking dignity, opportunity, and equity around the globe.”

I want to encourage us all to participate tomorrow in rebirthing the gift economy in the world. Generosity comes in many forms—financial of course, by giving to the causes we care about. But there is also the generosity of attention, of time, of spirit, of listening. There are endless ways to give.

Some person in my neighborhood has started a holiday-card writing campaign for folks in nursing homes in our community who have been isolated for months due to Covid that I’m doing. And if SheEO and the gift economy sounds intriguing to you, check out becoming an Activator and/or gifting an Activation to someone who can’t afford it.

Of course, giving is not really a one day a year event. When we fully participate in the gift economy, our filling up and spilling over, becomes a natural and delightful part of our everyday experience. May it bring you great joy.

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