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Why I give – at the heart of generosity

One United Church minister reflects on what motivates him

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Rev. Glen Eagle. (Photo courtesy United Church of Canada)

Generosity, giving and gratitude are popular topics these days. These themes are being explored widely: in websites with daily mottos (The Network for Grateful Living); in scientific research (UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center); and in best-selling books, including children’s books like the well-loved Shel Silverstein story The Giving Tree.

All charitable organizations are focused on how to gain our enduring support. Inspiring generosity, inviting participation and being thankful for your gift are pillars of all of their efforts.

The same is true for faith organizations. It can be argued that we take that one or two steps further. For people of faith, these three actions – inspiring, inviting, thanking – are spiritual practices.

Our generosity is our response to God’s vast generosity in our lives. Our generosity is a way to contribute to living our faith aligned with God’s purposes for us. It is how we make a positive difference in our congregation, community, across our country and in places around the globe.

These spiritual practices begin with intentional reflection on your experience of generosity as well as knowing your own reasons for giving. What has inspired you in the past? Was it the example of an elder, the experience of an unexpected and very welcome gift, seeing the impact of a generous act on an individual or community?

There are many inspiring stories of generosity and why people give. Here is one from United Church minister Rev. Glen Eagle.

“A good friend of mine, on his deathbed, confided to me that he had left his considerable fortune to two charities. In spite of the fact that I was not one of those charities, I commended him on his generosity toward others even in the midst of his personal distress. He assured me that his generosity was only a result of his desire that the relatives should get nothing. I knew him well enough to know that that wasn’t entirely true. He was one of the most generous and caring people I have ever met.

I have two reasons for giving. One, like my friend, is because I do care. I care about people who, for whatever reason struggle with life. From the kids who didn’t get a break, to adults who live with some kind of misfortune, to people or animals caught in situations of violence and insecurity. I do care. If my small gift of money or time can alleviate their state then I feel like I have helped. That is a good feeling.

The other reason I give has to do with my realization that we came into this world with nothing and we will leave the same way. Everything including life is a gift. We truly do own nothing. As a minister, I deal with life and death every day. It doesn’t matter what is in my bank account the day I die. Holding on to money really doesn’t change the fact of death, but sharing the money while we’re alive changes lives. Everyone’s!”