Gratitude of Generosity

About a year ago I fell in love with Don Miguel Ruiz the writer of the Four Agreements. Since then I’ve read (listened) to several of his books finding an understanding and kindred knowledge in his writing. 

I try very hard to put in place practices I’ve learned from his writing, including gratitude for things received, as it’s more difficult to receive than it is to give. 

It is hard to write on generosity without also writing on gratitude; for me, they go hand in hand. Don Miguel Ruiz has a beautiful prayer in many of his books giving thanks to the generosity of the Creator of the Universe that goes like this: 

“Today, Creator of the Universe, my heart is filled with gratitude for the gift of life you have given me. Thank you for the opportunity to experience this beautiful body and this wonderful mind. Today, I want to express my gratitude for everything I have received from you. 

[…]Today, I will graciously receive your gifts by enjoying your gifts, by enjoying my life. Help me to be as generous as you are, to share what I have with generosity, just as you share your gifts so generously with me. Help me to become a master of gratitude, generosity and love so that I can enjoy all your creations. 

Today, Creator, help me to manifest my creations as you manifest the universe, to express the beauty of my spirit in the supreme art of the human: the art of dreaming my life. Today, I give you all of my gratitude and love because you have given me life. Amen”

Not only is it important for me to give freely, but to also have gratitude for the things that have been given freely to me. 

~Candice C Carver

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The Way of Generosity

True words aren’t charming
Charming words aren’t true.
Good people aren’t contentious,

Contentious people aren’t good.
People who know aren’t learned,
Learned people don’t know.
Wise souls don’t hoard;
The more they do for others the more they have,
The more they give, the richer they are.
The Way of heaven profits without destroying.
Doing without outdoing
Is the Way of the wise.

Tao Te Ching #81 rendered by Ursula K. Le Guin

This is the last chapter of the ancient Chinese Taoist scripture, the Tao Te Ching. It ends the way it begins by repeating a constant theme. The Way is always found in balance between two opposing kinds of energy that complete each other–like true words and charming words; good people and contentious people; learned and knowing; yin and yang; dark and light.

This last chapter brings to focus what the wise ones know about generosity. They don’ hoard–anything. In fact,what they have come to experience is that the more they give, the richer they are. As we approach the end of this month of reflection on generosity, I submit that if you were to go back and re-read all of the reflections given here, you would find this same wisdom–the more we give, the richer we are. This wisdom also knows that true profit happens without destroying. Capitalism seems to have missed the memo on that. 

The balanced way is captured in those last words.  Doing without outdoing. Apply that to anything and everything, and some wisdom will arise. 

~Bob Patrick

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Gratitude to Receive

Growing up my family was constantly on the receiving end of generous people. My mother, a somewhat single female (stepfather wasn’t really around much) raising two daughters constantly worked and did her best to keep a roof over our heads and food in our pantry. 

I remember standing in the food stamp line (yes, it was a line) getting our monthly government approved food with our pillow cases stripped from our bed. Children would get more than adults so my mother would gather all our friends and we’d make our way down the street to the warehouse that they filtered everyone through to get their food. A bag of beans, rice, noodles and some soft shelf stable cheese. If they had cans of veggies we’d get that. A bag of flour, sugar, dried milk and coffee. A salted ham or chicken if they were available and other meat. Sometimes farmers would give fresh fruit and veggies, and kids got a handful of some candy. 

My Grandpa and Aunt would always help us with other expenses and they gave us gifts and took us out to eat. My Grandma (Min) would buy our school clothes and we’d also get clothes from the church thrift stores. 

This was my life even after I was married to my first husband… always depending on the generosity of others. I was ashamed that I couldn’t survive on my own. It was hard to make a living and be successful like my Aunt and Grandfather. I felt like nothing I ever did would get me to be so successful that I could also give generously. 

My perception of my generosity began changing after I was divorced. It’s not that I wasn’t able to give generously, it’s that my idea of generosity was skewed to think it was all about giving financially. 

I started volunteering my time and donating my services to non profits and I found a new form of generosity that didn’t drain my already challenged student bank account. I found joy in helping others through my time and talent. A way for me to finally give back. 

My hope is to continue to be generous with my time and talent and as I’m more able with my treasure. I reflect on my past and now am blessed that I was on the receiving end of generosity, I no longer have shame but gratitude for everyone that showed me that generosity is more than the coin I can give. So much more… 

~Candice C Carver

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When Giving Is All We Have

One river gives
Its journey to the next. 

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, and small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

Albert Rios 

Just the beginning of this poem is enlightening, “One river gives its journey to the next.” As I really soak that in, I imagine the rivers as they merge together giving all they have to the next, flowing so steadily till they merge together into one giant river that gives to the ocean that gives to the air and the lifeforms that inhabit it. The air and clouds give to the land and the journey is then starting all over again. 

The branches of the rivers that weave and wind to give to other areas are like the branches of my ancestral tree. Starting from many ancestors and channeled down to one branch to give me life, then branching to give my cousins, nieces and nephews life, all together they gave their journey to the next to make “something greater from the difference.”

Such an enlightening kindness, “when giving is all we have”. 

~Candice C Carver

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Why Generosity?

I’ll be honest. I’ve been a bit worried about the revisions to Article II. I feel like I just figured out the language of the last version of Article II, and in my five years as a UU,  I’ve become attached to those handy lists of principles and sources. Thinking about my anxiety, I decided that the willingness to embrace change could be another form of generosity, so I read and then reread the final proposed revision now released by the UUA Board of Trustees.

The new proposed revision is accompanied by a cool new flower image of the proposed values which appeals to my 1960’s childhood. I was intrigued to see that generosity along with interdependence, pluralism, justice, equity and transformation is depicted on one of the petals reaching outward from a center of love. 

As thoughtful as I know Unitarian Universalists to be, I can imagine that the choosing of this language and the distillation of our principles to these 6 specific values was a process of back and forth, give and take from all involved. These words weren’t chosen lightly. Generosity wasn’t chosen lightly, but purposefully. As I read the proposal, I am struck by the last sentence referencing generosity: “Our generosity connects us to one another in relationships of interdependence and mutuality.” 

Generously giving and receiving leads us to acknowledge our need for each other. It encourages us to build trust and teaches us to give without fear and receive without shame. It allows for the unpredictability of life, the needs of individuals as they navigate the demands of jobs or family and the changing needs of time commitments or health. Generosity speaks to our humanity, both in what we share in life experiences and what sets us apart. In the end, generosity is perhaps just one more invitation to simply let go and allow giving and receiving to bring us out of our individual anxieties and into beloved community.

~Lisa Kiel

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Heart of Gold

Recently, I heard on the radio “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young, one of his more famous songs, that has always touched me to the core. 

“I want to live, I want to give, I’ve been a miner, for a heart of gold” 

As I stood up to give a reflection on the first Sunday in November, I had this song lingering in the back of my mind. I’m living my life and I’m giving all I can, and I have been looking for a long time for people like me with a heart of gold. 

I get many people praising and complimenting me on my generosity and I fumble with the thank yous and shy away from receiving the praises. 

But here is what I see: 

I see congregants who know when someone needs a hug and are always there to give one. 

I see a mother who has been so generous that their children don’t even think twice about volunteering to fill in where they can.

I see a father that has such an influence on not only his children but the entire congregation that he’s sought out for advice. 

I see families that get involved in events of the congregation and inspire others to be a heart of gold. 

I see hearts of gold all over our congregation, and I know I’ve found my place to share my own heart of gold. 

~Candice C. Carver

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Generosity In My Heart

Growing up in a Christian society I have,  on more than one occasion, heard about giving generously and receiving glory. Many passages in the bible talk about giving to the Lord, giving to those in need. The implication of those using those passages is that in doing so we will be rewarded. Gratitude has been ingrained to be a give and take relationship. If I give I will be rewarded, you reap what you sow, as 2nd Corinthians 9: 6-8 in the Bible states: 

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Even to this day I practice this type of generosity. I give what I have decided in my heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. Although my personal belief of God has changed, my generosity has not. If I am reluctant to give, I often find there is a reason. If I am compelled to give I find that the generosity is not as rewarding as if I was not compelled to. 

~Candice C Carver

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