January: How we chose to be more generous

Generosity

For the month of January, we chose generosity as a character trait we wanted to focus on to improve ourselves and our relationship.  This week, we report back on our experiences and lessons learned from this experiment. Check out how well we stacked up to our goals!

Ellen…

Intention #1:  Ask Jenna what she needs from me at this stage of her life, so I can be sure I’m giving in ways she finds helpful.

Jenna and I had this conversation, and she told me that she feels I give her both the support and the distance she needs when she needs it. Well, that was an easy one! As I mentioned previously, I think I’m most responsive to Jenna’s needs. Opportunities to be more generous lie elsewhere, with other people in my life who need more of my attention.

Intention #2:  If asked for help by someone in need (and the request is reasonable), say “yes.”  If presented with an opportunity to “give”, then give.

An opportunity to “give” presented itself the day after I set this intention – I received a notice that a blood mobile was going to be in my neighborhood the following week.  It felt great to give blood, especially when I found out that they only had half the number of donors respond this year. Maybe my blood will be used to help someone during a life-saving medical procedure!

My son Alex connected me with his friend Enzo because he thought I could help him improve the website copy for his new company. Because Enzo was a friend of Alex’s, I offered to do the work for him at half my usual rate and I told him that I would give the money that I earned to a friend who is starting her own business. This “Pay it Forward” deal is a win-win-win: I am using my writing skills to help two young entrepreneurs, Enzo will get website copy at a low cost – plus the satisfaction that his money is going to help someone else. And my friend doesn’t know it yet, but she’s going to get a check in the mail to invest in her business!

Intention #3: Perform at least one act of generosity every day.

While I can’t say I thought of being generous every day this month, this exercise did help me be more aware of others’ needs and not just my own. For example, there are three important people in my life who live alone, and I called them more frequently than usual this month. Gary’s been working hard lately, tirelessly sitting at his desk on the phone, so I’ve popped into his office once in a while to give him a shoulder massage. I’ve done some career coaching for two people who asked for my advice. And I’m helping a non-profit organization do some grass-roots marketing for a retreat they are having in February for Jewish single moms.

Overall, I feel good about the things I did this month to be more generous. I need to continually be conscious about giving since it doesn’t always come naturally. I’m going to continue to keep track of my generous acts into February so that it becomes more of a habit!

Jenna…

Intention #1: I want to be more giving of my time and attention to my mom when we talk so I can equally support her in her day-to-day experiences and challenges.

I definitely made a concerted effort on this intention this month but actually found it harder than I thought! Every time I started a conversation trying to ask my mom how she was doing and hear about her life, she was usually more eager to hear my latest updates than switch the conversation immediately to her. Still, when we talked, I tried to make a point to probe about her adjustment to life in Florida, her health updates, and her latest activities.

Intention #2: I want to find more opportunities to give my business and fundraising skills to people and organizations so that I can help them achieve their goals.

This month I was really excited to help give back to organizations I care about simply by leveraging my current skill set. I was able to review some grant proposals for a Jewish organization I was active with in DC and also support an entrepreneur in Philadelphia who is building a dating coach business – it’s been really exciting to see her business grow even in the short six weeks we have been working together, and I have helped her forge several new connections that will hopefully develop into speaking engagements.

Intention #3: Perform at least one act of generosity every day.

While I didn’t track this intention as well as I would have liked, I really feel like I was much more generous with my time this month. For example, I made more of an effort to reach out to long-distance friends, gave some free yoga lessons, and hosted 3 potluck dinners to bring friends together. Rather than filling my days with activities that only benefited me, it felt really good to do kind deeds for others I care about.

 

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