With the holidays quickly upon us, it is easy to find ourselves wrapped up the hype of gift giving. We all like getting and giving gifts around this time of year. We love feeling appreciated. We love being recognized, if even by obligation.
Generosity is more than just giving a gift you picked up at Nordstroms, Khols or ToysR’Us. It is the attitude and spirit behind why we give. It is being aware of the needs and desires of others and actively doing something to meet those needs and desires.
The other day, I spent a few hours of my busy week to wander the beach in Los Angeles and sit and get to know a few of our beautiful homeless community. I couldn’t help but think about buying them new shoes, clothes or even finding a warm bed for each and every one of them. It would be so easy to hand over a little cash and meet an obvious need.
I’ve learned over the years, that although physical gifts are necessary, true generosity goes beyond that. True generosity requires loving your neighbor. It requires looking folks in the eye and listening. It requires being present.
Loving your neighbors requires first knowing your neighbors. Who are they? What are their names? Listen to not just their words, but their heart.
Knowing your neighbors breeds empathy. We begin to experience the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. We feel their pain and struggles. We also feel their joy and victories.
Empathy removes fear and thus provokes the truest of love. Once fear is silenced and the walls are down, you are in a position to experience true love…experience true generosity.
This love, this generosity, is not the goal, it is the prerequisite to a life worth living.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”