on generosity.

alright, go grab a(nother) cup of coffee & nestle in, this is going to be a longer one:

these past few weeks, i've been tossing around a post on generosity. like many of my other big ideas posts (on visiting friends, or newlywed life, or going through life with dear friends), it's a topic that seems to be coming up all over the place. you see, when i think of generosity i think of a lot of things:

i think of the women at bible study who hear ellie's cry, see the dark circles under my eyes, & come to rock her in the back of the room so i can really listen. they are generous. i think of some dear friends who are also new parents & the precious package that arrived from their baby girl to ellie with two of her favorite books inside (i love a three week old who already has favorite books!). that baby girl is led by generous parents. i think of the dozen loads of laundry my mom did when she was in town last week. she is generous. i think of my sweet friend who is so present when we catch up on the phone -- she has such intentional questions, such thoughtful responses -- encouragement just pours out of her. her spirit is oh so generous. i think of another sweet friend who drove 8 hours round trip in one day to meet ellie because she just couldn't stand another day not having met her. ellie cried most of the three hours she was here & she didn't mind. her generosity meant more than she'll know. i think of saturday morning, when ryan needed sleep just as much as i did, but he took ellie down to the back room & let me sleep for two extra hours (!!). he is generous & loves me so well. i think of the friend who came by trains, planes & automobiles to meet ellie & as if that wasn't enough, brought the two above gifts for me (shouldn't i be buying her gifts?!) -- so incredibly thoughtful & generous (what a stunning scarf & i can hardly wait to dive into this cookbook!). i think of all the loads of dishes kaitlin did & lattes she made while she visited -- small acts that made all the difference. she is generous.

surely this is evidence that bringing a child into this world makes generosity show up like neon lights all over the place -- at some level, you are so tired, exhausted, scared, overwhelmed and excited, that when others meet you in that place & lend a hand, you feel like you couldn't be more grateful. their generosity touches you in a new way -- they're not only loving you, but loving this new life, and that means a great deal.

that said, i was interested in generosity long before ellie came along. i grew up in a family where generosity was modeled incredibly well by both of my parents. taking meals to others, giving thoughtful gifts, holding the door for others, volunteering, visiting older friends & new babies, paying attention to other's big life events, hosting bridal & baby showers, stopping to help someone on the side of the road, & taking care of one another mattered a lot in our house. those things were done consistently & without much fanfare -- it was a way of living. my mom had a shelf or two of gifts at the ready -- for a hostess, birthday or someone who was sick; she had a file folder of cards for all occasions. my dad treated everyone who crossed his path with the same warmth & generosity of spirit.

as i got to college & had the choice to take on the same responsibilities in my life or neglect them, i tried really hard to follow their lead. i was also blessed to find friends who embodied this generosity so well.

it's important to note, generosity can cost money -- the ingredients for the meal for a grieving family, those flowers when your friend across the country gets a big promotion, a latte for the assistant at your office who constantly makes your work day a bit easier, the provisions for a bridal shower for a dear friend, those books for a new baby -- they all cost money. it also can simply require your time -- helping a friend move into a new apartment, or babysitting for new parents, giving the spouse of a deployed service member a few hours to herself, or offering to take that elderly neighbor to the grocery store for a few hours. in both cases, regardless what your income is or how busy you are, i'd take to heart that generosity involves some sacrifice. sending a friend a thoughtful gift may cut into your budget for eating out this month. spending an afternoon helping someone else may mean you don't cross as much off your to do list. generosity will, at some level, require a sacrifice from you. that said, i can promise it won't feel like a sacrifice -- my life most often feels even more full when i'm generous. when you get the immensely grateful email from the friend who really needed that pick me up, you won't look at your credit card bill at the end of the month & regret that purchase. when you see the relief on a friend's face after you help them for a few hours, you won't be bitter your to do list isn't shorter that day. when you see the smile on a bride's face as she sees all the touches you put on her wedding shower, it will be worth every penny & late night getting ready.

i don't do this perfectly. it's something i wrestle with i'll think of someone or hear some news & think "i should send them that book!" and then go "but our budget is so tight this month, maybe just a card, or even an email?" or will contemplate offering to help someone & then think "but i haven't seen Ryan all week & i'd rather just spend time with him that afternoon..." it's not a perfect science, but when i choose what's easier for me, it ends up being so much emptier than when i choose to go a bit out of my way for someone else.

and it doesn't have to cost a gazillion dollars! instead of ordering flowers online, pick some up at the grocery & arrange them yourself! use amazon to get free shipping & dirt cheap prices on amazing, thoughtful gifts (i love this candle & this book). you can even include a free gift message! when you cook a meal for others, simply double the recipe for your own family & it'll be a lot more cost effective (i'm a big fan of doubling my pumpkin bread & chocolate chip cookie recipe -- it's just as easy to make twice as much & it gives you the opportunity to brighten someone's day!). scour pinterest for affordable ways to make hosting a party affordable & thoughtful. make your own cards -- a simple note on the perfect card can be a gift in itself. show up. be present. offer your skills & talents (if you have a green thumb, are a baby whisperer, have a knack for photography, etc. there is so much you can do for others!)

this world can be a cold, dark place -- and simple acts of generosity can be such a bright light. 

shine on.