Being generous – in small ways

Almost every year for the past several years I’ve made sure to get a $100 bill and put it into a Salvation Army kettle.

Why? It feels good!

I have visions of some Salvation Army worker who’s been carefully counting lots and lots of single dollar bills and even more loose change, lighting up when they stumble across that uncommonly large donation.

Many folks will say that what I’m doing is wrong for so many reasons: I could be totally mistaken about that counting scenario, the single bill could be lost, certainly kettles have been stolen, and I’m missing out on a tax break, and so on. There are many excuses not to do it.

And yet, it feels good. So I do it anyway.

Once you’ve accidentally (or otherwise) achieved affluence it’s time to start thinking about “giving back”, in whatever way that might have meaning for you. And yes, I’ll certainly talk about true philanthropy at another time. This is more about simple generosity that your newfound affluence affords you. “Philanthropy light.” Nothing that has to break the bank, and yet enough so that you, and perhaps your recipients can feel good about it.

Over-tip. Unless you’re trying to send a message for bad service, develop a habit of being tipping a little too much. Too much feels better than too little, doesn’t it? As I said, it doesn’t have to be a big increase – normal tipping for meals in the U.S. is something like 15-20%. So, tip 20-25%. Chances are you’re not going to miss that extra 5%.

Tip when you normally wouldn’t. Did you know that it’s nice to tip the housekeeping staff when you leave a hotel? For a long time I didn’t. For me it’s perfect, since it doesn’t have to be any of that intimidating face-to-face kind of interaction, just leave some cash in the room and walk away feeling good about it. (Check the tipping guidelines sites for ideas on how much. And of course, since we’re here, round up a little.)

Throw a few dollars in the charity cans at the grocery store checkout counter. Buy a few extra items to throw in the food bank collection there too.

Buy Girl Scout cookies. And Camp Fire mints. And the neighbor’s kid’s fundraiser what-ever-it-is.

Sure, there are those who’ll attempt to abuse your generosity. Naturally you’ll want to stay away from solicitors you know aren’t legitimate, and those for whom you may have specific opinions. For example I never give to panhandlers. That’s all perfectly fine and I’m certainly not saying be irresponsible or that you need to somehow compromise your values.

I’m just saying be generous. Round up. Get used to giving in small ways.

It’s actually harder than you think, especially if you’ve come from a background of saving or scarcity. It’s sometimes difficult to give money away, even small amounts, “just because” or when there’s no immediate, tangible return.

My position is that there is.

It feels good.

It makes others feel good.

And it’s great practice.

4 thoughts on “Being generous – in small ways”

  1. I have a policy of leaving a minimum tip of $5.00 on small meals. I’m not a millionaire by any stretch yet, but I figure anyone waiting tables needs the 5 bucks more than I do, and if you think about it, isn’t it worth it to pay $5.00 for someone to bring you a meal and provide anything else you require to enjoy it? And if they don’t quite live up to that promise, perhaps the larger tip will help make their day a little better.
    You’re right, it feels good to do this, and yet it is also hard to break the habit of calculating the “right” amount to tip.
    One other thing I’ve managed to do is that when I see coins on the ground I leave them there for the next person. Again, I figure someone else needs it more than I do. And when I calculated out how much I’d “earn” by picking up coins over my lifetime, it might be all of $100.00 with the most extreme good fortune. Feeling good over and over again throughout my lifetime is much more valuable than the cash I’d accumulate.
    I’ve read all of your posts and I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts. I especially liked the 2 million dollar car!
    Happy New Year!

  2. There is absolutely nothing that feels as good as doing good for someone else. Seeing the look in someone’s eyes is great but what feels even better is when I do that good deed anonymously or quietly. God and I are the only ones who know it was me and that just makes me feel like I was 5 or 6 and playing hide and seek again. I get that little kid excited, giggly feeling.
    There is absolutley nothing like that feeling that comes from doing good and helping someone else. But then, you already know that.
    Thanks for you insight.

  3. Hi,
    I like secretly helping others. I like to tip extra for special attention. What I do not like is for the business to forces a “gratuity” upon me. They should just pay their staff more up front and quit pretending. On the other hand, the person who gave you grief for the $100 in the bell ringers pot not being on the tax form; well I think it is just crazy to think of tax write offs when giving; we should give to help and feel good, not to get a deduction. I personally think all those write offs should go away and everyone would pay fair and straight.
    Thanks for the wonderful insight.

  4. My personal preference for RAK?
    My grocery store sells $2 coupons which they donate to the local food bank. I buy my groceries as I need them, so I usually shop there at least 5 times a week. Any time I buy anything that I figure I don’t REALLY need, like an extra good steak, or yet another book, I buy a coupon for the food bank.
    No deductions or anything, but at least I feel like I’m helping.


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