Generosity: Starting from a place of Abundance


NOTE: For those that are arriving here for the first time, or for my WordPress friends who come here regularly, I am doing a series on generosity in the month of December. I'll still add some fun WordPress posts in during the month. If you know me, you know it's really something I care deeply about. If you don't know me, or are surprised by the topic, feel free to read along (I hope you enjoy it). Or skip a day or two.

By now hopefully you've learned to receive and learned to listen. Or at least you've started trying. Now we step into actually being generous.

And before I start, I want to be clear that sometimes I'll write about money and other times about time. The truth is that generosity spans all kinds of resources that you have and that you may give. So if I talk about money, and you're feeling tight, don't feel like I'm judging you. Instead, apply the lesson using another resource you have (like your time or talent).

Now let's get started.

When was the last time you went out to dinner?

I go out to meals a lot. Probably more than I should. Don't get me wrong, my wife's a great cook. And I enjoy the kitchen as well. But I love taking people out to eat. So we go out a lot.

You have to budget for this kind of stuff, because eating at home is always cheaper. But when you do budget for it, if you're like me, or even if you don't budget for it, it's likely that we don't have a prescribed amount for dinner.

To see what I mean by that, take a second to remember the last time you went out to eat. Try to recall not just the meal, but the thinking that went before it.

Did you plan ahead to go out? Maybe hire a babysitter? Did you pick a restaurant that was in your budget? Or decide to accept an invitation to go out with another couple?

However it worked, I'm betting that you thought about it. And whether money is tight or not, you likely thought about the cost of the meal (whether it was a fleeting thought or more than a few minutes).

Can I guess what you didn't think much about or calculate?

The Tip.

If you're like me, you likely asked yourself (before going out), “Do we have enough money to eat at _____?”  And when you thought of your answer, it was in generic terms – like “yes, we have $____.” The amounts don't matter. It's the nature of how you thought about it that counts.

So if we're going to take the family to Applebees (you know this is fiction, I hate that place!) I might place a guess that the night out may cost us $30. I could be wrong, but I'm likely close. But you know what I don't do? I don't think about the tip. I don't think about the extra 15-20%. I just think about it as $30. And then I decide if we can afford it.

Are you like that?

Stepping into actual Generosity

I'm spending so much time on this thought experiment of the thinking that goes on before going out to eat on purpose. I'm doing it because I want you to reflect on the thoughts that happen when the check comes. Even if you never think about the tip beforehand, you always do when the bill arrives right?

We all do. We start calculating, don't we? As if we'll win prizes for doing exact math.

But here's the truth I want us to get to today.

When we went out to dinner, we did it because we could. Even though it was more expensive than eating at home. We determined if we could afford it and we could . So we went. And when we calculate the tip, it's percentage points, small ones, on top of what we've already invested in our own pleasure and enjoyment.

That's what I call abundance. Even at Applebee's.

So at the moment of writing that tip, we can do so from a place of abundance. Giving from abundance is some of the easiest giving out there – because while there may be cost, we're not going to feel it like we would if we had to sacrifice (which comes later).

Embracing our Abundance Opportunities

We should embrace every opportunity we have to give out of abundance. It's a simple place to start. And it doesn't have to be money. If you have extra time, or extra mercy, or extra resources – start there.

And you may discover that you see a return on that investment immediately.

I took my wife and I out to dinner one night (about a year ago) to a restaurant that we frequent often. And as we walked into the place and headed to the host's little table to put our name down, I saw a waiter rush to the host's side and whisper in his ear. It was so much movement, so quickly, that I couldn't help notice it.

I didn't recognize the waiter. But when we got to the host, he said something like, “Right this way. Brian will be with you in a second.” So we sat down and started wondering who Brian was.

Then our waiter came back to our table with Diet Coke (for me) and Ice Tea (for Melissa). If you know us, you know those are our drinks. It was surprising – mostly because this wasn't a fancy place where waiters are trained to remember your drinks from a few weeks ago. This was your standard family restaurant.

Then he asked us about our day, and our week, and was very conversational. At that point it started to dawn on me (sometimes I'm slow), that we'd had him serve us before, and that maybe I'd left a nice tip. So I asked, “Haven't we had you serve us before?” And he smiled and replied, “Yeah! A few weeks ago you guys came in, remember? I told you about my upcoming trip and you were really supportive.”

As he left, I remembered my wife asking about him (she's a natural networker) and his weekend plans. He shared something about a trip he'd been saving for. And so when it came time to give him a tip, instead of our normal 20%, I'd given him 40%. Now, before you start thinking I was crazy – let me tell you that the dinner cost somewhere around $28. So the difference between $5 and $10 wasn't a big deal.

Most of us, if we can afford to go out to eat, can afford an extra $5. Right?

But to a waiter, the difference between thinking he's going to get 15% ($4) and getting 40% ($11) is huge! So he remembered us – and our drinks.

My Challenge to You

My challenge to you is simply to start by acknowledging where you're already living in abundance. If you have two cars and one sits in your driveway a lot, guess what? You're enjoying the abundance of that “extra” car. If you have afternoons free while the kids are at school, you may discover you have an abundance of time from 2-4 pm. If you are good with budgets and have some extra money (beyond what you put in savings), maybe your place of abundance is in your wallet. Or maybe you just have some time on the weekend to listen to a friend in pain.

Start by figuring out where you're already rich. Then simply up your game. Give from that place. Just a bit. And see if it's not an incredibly wonderful feeling.

And if this has been helpful, would you do me the favor of sharing it. You know I normally don't ask. But this is material that's important to me. Thanks!