December is only a couple of days away and no matter what holiday you plan to celebrate (or not) this month, we can all agree this time of year is widely known as the Season of Giving. When we think of the holiday season often the first thing that comes to mind is gifts, which is a wonderful thing. But it can also be an incredibly stressful thought for many, with imagined or very real pressure to buy the perfect gift for everyone on their list. For the most part, people love to be generous and if we don’t have financial resources to do that it can feel disappointing. Happily, there are many ways to be generous without it ever affecting your bank account!
When we think of generosity often the first thing that comes to mind is giving money or gifts, but generosity can be so much more than that. Time is one possession we all have that we can give generously of in this Season of Giving. Now, not everyone has lots of time to volunteer in their community or to give a few hours to an organization that needs some extra hands, but we can show great generosity in even the briefest moments of connection with others and it doesn’t have to cost us a penny.
An easy way to take part in the Season of Giving is to be generous in your curiosity and the attention you pay others. When you ask the cashier or person fueling up your vehicle how they’re doing, be prepared to actually listen to their answer by giving them your attention and even a thoughtful response. Instead of asking “how are you?” put some thought into a more generous conversation starter. “How’s your day going so far?” followed up by a minute or two while you really listen is a great way to let someone feel seen, even if just briefly. The gift of only a few minutes of your time can give them the opportunity to share something good or even not so good about their day and hopefully bring a moment of lightness.
Another great way to be generous and take part in the Season of Giving without touching that credit card is to show generosity in your opinion of others. We all know this but in a time when stressful and difficult situations have been abundant, it’s important to remember that every person we meet is fighting some sort of battle. Maybe it’s a family situation. They could have lost a loved one. It could be their job, a friendship, a health issue, or fear and exhaustion simply have taken their toll. All these things will affect the way people interact with the world around them. So instead of frustration with the exhausted parent and child or angry customer or the guy that took your parking spot, be generous in your opinion of each person. See them as a human being human (which can often be hard work) instead of the person who desperately wanted to park closer to the door so that you couldn’t. Chances are pretty good that they have a lot on their mind and beating you into the store wasn’t part of it. Thinking the best of someone is an easy gift to give. It’s to be expected that even in stressful times, you are doing your best. In this Season of Giving, give others the benefit of the doubt and believe they also are doing their best with what they have at that moment.
Being generous with praise and compliments is a beautiful way to really get into the Season of Giving. Do you like the cashier’s hair? How about that cute kid in the elf hat? Tell them! Gift compliments and throw them around like confetti – or snowflakes. Some people might look at you strangely, but chances are pretty good that you’ll mostly see big smiles, masks or not. People love to be told something good and they really love to hear something good about themselves. So be generous with your words whenever you can. Take time to really notice someone and find something good to share. Tell them you think they look amazing today or you like their fancy truck or their kids are so well behaved. Generosity in our conversations is a simple gift that has a huge impact on the people we interact with. Be generous in your words both with those you love and the strangers you meet.
One of the simplest and most powerful ways to show generosity in this Season of Giving is to allow kindness to lead every one of our interactions. There is no conversation that will be diminished by leading with kindness and no interaction will suffer from it. Kindness can be conveyed in our tone of voice, eye contact, attention, and yes, our words. We can show kindness in our opinion of others and ourselves by recognizing the humanity in each of us - complete with wins, losses, struggles, and hopes. Let kindness and generosity lead you as you move through the weeks to come.
If we’re willing to be thoughtful in our everyday interactions, we can all be generous no matter our budget this year. No matter who you are or how full or empty your bank account, you can take part in this Season of Giving without ever exchanging a dollar or swiping a credit card.