Generous: characterized by a noble or kindly spirit; liberal in giving; marked by abundance or ample proportions
Abundance: an ample quality; affluence, wealth; relative degree of plentifulness
(Definitions from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
One of the most unexpected conversations I found myself repeatedly having throughout this backpacking journey is the generosity of the United States of America. One of the common outside perspectives about Americans is our love of money, wealth, greed and fame. Considering most of the world only knows the United States by what is represented by Hollywood, the viewpoint is not too far-fetched. But what I was able to proudly share is the immense financial generosity that also flows from her citizens.
It is not uncommon to hear of fundraisers being organized to financially help an individual or family in need. Americans are quick to sign up for a 5k race if the proceeds go towards a charity. When a natural disaster strikes, money pours in from all around the country to assist in offsetting the various costs. Consumers are more willing to buy an overpriced pair of canvas shoes because the company will donate a pair to a child in a lesser developed country with each purchase. And the list goes on and on. When we Americans have strong feelings toward a person, organization or cause, we often look for ways to financially get involved and support them.
Truth be told, I have always loved gifts. I love receiving gifts and I love giving gifts. When I was a child, my view was more focused on the receiving part and a less on the giving. As an adult, I care very little for receiving but intensely love to give.
A number of years ago, I thought about this idea of generosity coupled with the joy of giving. I was able to spot opportunities to help others and I really wanted to but I “didn’t have the money”. I used the same tired line of “someday when I have less bills or more money” to explain why I could not generously give. One day, after some serious thought, I decided I wanted to make blessing others a priority.
I started by attacking my debt and bills with an aggressive payback schedule. The less I HAVE to pay to a lender, the more I get to donate to worthy people causes. I am sure most of you have heard of Dave Ramsey by now. I actually bought his books and adopted the beginner concepts to pay my debt down. While it took a little bit of time in the beginning, it paid off later as the debt started to disappear. However, it took sacrifice. It took sacrificing impulse purchases. It took delaying instant gratification. It took going without, in order to get out from under. And looking back, I cannot think of one thing I feel cheated from not being able to have. That means none of my painful sacrifice was long term, except in the moment of walking away.
Once I had a handle and made progress on my debt load, I opened a new bank account labeled, “Blessings.” I intentionally dedicated a small percentage of my paycheck to the account and started keeping my eyes open for opportunity. As debt fell off, freeing up more money, I was slowly able to raise the percentage being put into the blessings account. It is a curious thing, the more I looked forward to blessing other people, the less interest I had of spending money on myself. I also noticed that no matter how much money I freely and excitedly gave away, the account never ran dry.
Did you know God actually promises this outcome? “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, ‘They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.’ For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will always be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous” (2 Corinthians 9:8-11a). Seriously, how crazy is that?!? When we choose to be generous with what we have, God promises to provide for us and also provide for our generosity, enabling us to give even more. AND, the verses go on to talk about receiving joy in our giving. As we choose to give, we lose our self-centered focus and receive joy. How awesome! I enjoy being joyful!
So what does all of this money jabber have to do with this backpacking trip? When I left home, I still had money in the blessings account. I decided my personal theme for this journey was to “Bless and be blessed.” I kept my eyes and ears open for needs among the people I met along the way. Some people expressed financial hardship. Some people did not verbally express a need but I noticed an opportunity. Some needs were very simple like buying a meal. Some required far more time and effort like stopping at a number of government buildings to help sort out financial issues. And with each blessing I was able to participate in, I was blessed in the process.
I received a great number of new, blessed friendships along the path. Friends and family who I met up with along the way blessed me by surprising me with accommodation or other travel needs. Friends offered to assist me with this blog site. People unrelated to the previous blessing opened their homes to me. Some who have been following my journey sent financial donations which enabled me to continue blessing others. I was provided with transportation. I was provided with safety. I was provided with food and meals. And the list carries on throughout the entire trip.
In my experience, I can honestly say that when I made the sacrifice resolve my debt and then start blessing, the blessings came back to me tenfold. It is worth the front-end struggle to receive the back-end reward. When we can prove ourselves trustworthy with the little that is given to us, then we are trusted with more.
What would it look like if we purposefully stopped struggling with finances to start blessing and taking care of each other? I do not just want to be bold in chasing dreams, I want to be bold in generously blessing others. I want to freely and responsibly give from what I already have with little regard to how it will pain me. I want more of the joy that comes from giving and less of the pains of “not having enough.” That is what I want to be known for – bold dreaming, adventure chasing and joyful generosity.
A huge thank you to those of you who blessed me throughout this journey. You have not only made a difference in my life but in the lives of others as well. You are a cherished joy. May your lives continue to be richly blessed in your sacrifice.
“Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.
The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”