“They’re just naturally generous” is something we’d say about people who seem to give more than we do. From what I’ve been learning about generosity though, all of us have the ability to be generous.
With much respect to Mr. Charles Darwin, I don’t agree that human beings are still in a selfish, self-protection mode. We have definitely evolved much.
Recent studies tell us that generosity and kindness are actually hardwired in our brains.
If this is so, then we no longer have to doubt our capacity to give.
“She’s a millennial Mother Teresa! I can’t do what she does.”
Well, you’re probably judging yourself based on someone’s frequent social media posts of her posing with children from third world nations. I have sentiments about publicising our “do-good” actions unless we are equipping others to actually do the same. But that’s another story. My point is, if you look around, you’ll meet plenty of Mother Teresa-like people around who just don’t get to the headlines. And many of these people started from the opposite spectrum of Mother Teresa…
...some of the most generous people I’ve met used to be the most selfish people to the core.
And this is not my own judgement. This is what people now say about themselves.
Let me tell you a story.
His name is Andrew. He was a jokester and a big bully during his school days. He dreamed of a high life. He wanted nothing but money and fame. And he got a little bit of them. Then more of them. Then he did a very bad thing.
He trafficked drugs.
Then he was caught.
He was put in prison for over a decade. In the prison, he prayed to God for a sign about what His life would be next. The next day, a pastor came to visit him and he learned about Jesus. And he accepted Jesus in His life and vowed to try to live His commandments.
Then he started playing tennis in the prison. He later on invited people to join him play tennis so they’d stay healthy while in prison. He talked to people against drugs. Inmates and jail guards can attest that he had stopped using drugs while in jail, which is an uncommon thing, because drugs are prevalent in the prison.
During those years he was reading the Bible, he invited people to learn about it. He led the church services in prison. He encouraged and inspired people to have a changed life.
I met Andrew Chan in Kerobokan Prison in 2012 and later in 2013 while on a mission trip with Youth with a Mission in Bali. While it was a quick meeting, stories from friends about him got me interested in his life story. How can someone so messed up learn how to share what he has with others? He shared even the McDonalds meals visitors brought to him. I heard that in prison it’s tough to be sharing good food because they don’t come often. I read more about him through the years of his life.
He received the death penalty and was executed in 2016, to the shock of many of us who know about his changed life.
Many have commented “He’s a criminal, he deserved it.” Or “The law is the law and he broke it.” Or “His story is like many others in prison, but why is he getting so much attention?” (referring to the many news about him and his buddy Myuran who was also a ringleader of the infamous Bali Nina who was executed the same time). I don’t intend to elevate his story above others. It’s just that, his story is what I’ve come to know personally.
And I believe that his story is a powerful testimony of how a very selfish person can be generous.
Because generosity is in our making as human beings. Scientists have said that our brains have a “generosity mode” that can be switched on through practice.
And what’s more stunning is that there is a timeless book called the Bible that talks about generosity as a character that’s in us.
"So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:27
Because we are copies of God, we have his characteristics as well. It’s mind blowing, I know, especially when we think of the selfish and unkind things we’ve done in our lives. I ask myself, “How can I be a copy of God when I didn’t even stop to help an old lady struggling to get her big luggage onto the bus?”
There’s a story in the beginning of the Bible about the first man and woman disobeying God who were the precedent of our being less like God. And this disfigurement of our God-like images can get so bad when we keep nurturing it. And that’s when we get really nasty.
But God gives us a way through Jesus to be like him again, slowly but surely. It’s called redemption. And I’ve heard of stories after stories of redeemed lives. Mine included. I used to be very unkind myself. I’m now less nasty than I was several years ago! Take note: Not perfect, but less nasty.
And I believe that Andrew is one story of that redemption. He chose to be selfish in his earlier life, made small bad decisions, and he nurtured this disfigurement with more bad decisions. When he came to know Jesus and what He did for him and for the rest of us, he chose to be kinder, to be more loving, to be more generous.
- Joanna Blanding
Do you believe that you have it in you to be generous? Share your thoughts in the comment box! And don’t forget to follow us on IG at @givingissocial.
Here at Giving is Social, we celebrate the contribution of women to our community.
More than 70% of our volunteers are women who are from various fields and at different stages of their lives. We believe that they greatly affect the giving atmosphere in the organisations and households where they move. So, THANK YOU for being such huge influencers of change!
As a treat to our beloved women out there, here’s Part 1 of our lists of Guilt-free Activities To Do with Your Girlfriends in Singapore.
by: Pipay Reyes
As an advocacy partner of The Oasis Foundation, Giving is Social leads the efforts for awareness-building, fundraising and volunteer mobilisation in Singapore and neighboring countries. As members, we understand that not everyone has the time and resources to be at the frontlines full-time. That’s okay -- we’re here to remind each other that flexing the giving muscle is much easier than we think! There are certainly many ways to get involved beyond a one-time trip to Pattaya. In fact, the movement thrives on events that are initiated by its own community members, built on capacity and skills
My volunteering journey started when I got into the student council in high school. The only reason I was elected was because my older sister was popular on campus.
Through my last 8 years in school, I spent almost all of my free time doing organisational work. I enjoyed what for me were practical applications of what I was learning from books and my teachers. I organised enrichment talks, fundraising parties, movie premiere nights, presented in corporate offices to ask for sponsorships, and administered a great deal.
Thank you for taking part in inspiring, informing and connecting givers
for a better world in 2016!
Here's a review of our 2016. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for comments or questions.
What fuels the vision of non-profits?
You’re right, passion, values, skills, faith, and all those intangibles fuel the vision. Dare we say, also money? I was naive for a long time to say that money is not one of them.
I've learned that only in the non-existent perfect world can we make non-profits, or any enterprise for that matter, function purely on gifts in kind -- donated food packs to feed the staff, volunteers and their beneficiaries; volunteered skills to administrate and manage their accounting among other many desk tasks; or pledges to pay off monthly utilities. If that is ever possible in this age and time, then there will be no hungry people in the world.
Giving is Social is not primarily a fundraising group, but it inevitably functions as a fundraising supporter to its partners. I very slowly had to acknowledge, with much reluctance, this inevitability of GIS’s role to raise funds for other groups and for itself.
When I started the movement, I had an immature conviction of staying away from fundraising. I didn’t want to deal with any money matters. I said, “I will mobilise people with skills and time and surplus resources other than money.” It seemed easier to ask for donations of items rather than money. It was less audit work too. I’ve quickly learned though that the groups we were trying to help all needed some form of funding. This also became apparent for Giving is Social’s own operations. I had planned to scale up fast, convinced my new team to run leadership and volunteer programs in the Philippines and Thailand in 2016 and to support more beneficiaries. Little did I know that costs will come up, and nothing can replace the need for money. Friends won’t cover costs to transport donations to beneficiaries all the time. Neither would they always offer their spaces for free for charitable events. Money is always a part of the non-profit’s life.
I share this because Giving is Social will have to embrace this role of supporting social work. And to do that, we can’t truly help exclusively of funds. We are campaigning for a few fundraising efforts of our partners here:
Yes, these projects need money! That means, vision is being pursued. Hooray! Thank you in advance for supporting!
Currently reading this book!
"This book is focused on the principle of excellence. Its root word is excel meaning to surpass or exceed. The term implies that while everyone else performs at a certain level (i.e., average), the excellent individual performs above such a level. He makes an impact and is "a head and shoulders" above the rest in quality of his work. He is like a tree yielding abundant, luscious fruits for many. People are blessed because of him.
Excellence means going beyond the average. As one saying goes, 'The difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary is that little extra.' The principle is to exert, at least, ten percent more than what is expected and you will already appear excellent. Whatever is expected of you (for instance, by your boss or customer), meet this expectation and then, a a habit, add a little bit more. Deliver bonus service!" - Rex Resurreccion, author of "Called to Excel"
I read this excerpt, plus a few more, to the team at during our recent get-together. I have been having a little bit of frustrations trying to drive attendance to the difference activations that we have - info sessions, fund-raising workshops, leadership talks, meetings... It's not easy, if I have to be honest with you. Everyone is busy, Volunteer work is not the top priority of people. It gets the "surplus" time and energy, if any at all.
And I understand that. I had been tempted many times to cancel some sessions with potential volunteers because only one would be a "TBC" to come. When I finally decided to push through, I would wait anxiously, hoping there's no "Sorry, I got caught up at work." message that pops up on my phone. Then the person walks in the door. My heart smiles.
Then I remembered about excellence. I do what I do because the God who created me is excellent. And patience is an action of excellence. There's the concept of stewardship too. Serve excellently one person like how you would 100. I'm learning not to slack when the audience is just a few people. "Bring out the presentation and give it all you got!" I trust that in time the investments will grow.
Giving is Social was on the back burner for a couple of months in 2015 because I got married. To say the least, it was a life-changing move. No other endeavor was bigger than that.
I’ve learned that to create an outward impact, you’ll have to be very strong internally. 2015 was all about that - thinking and recalibrating. Now a team of two, my husband Michael and I took time to pray, align our visions, and establish our joint mission. We’re #BetterTogether.
While Giving is Social will still be fronted by me, Michael has been a great added support - emotionally and intellectually. It’s great to have a partner who is also passionate about the community. He works for the corporate responsibility group of the Intercontinental Hotels Group. I’ve been learning a lot from what he does for work. Our minds are #BetterTogether.
A big learning from the past two years - get a team involved! While there were several people who helped enormously, I didn’t focus much on building the core team. This is now Giving is Social’s pursuit. We are building a leadership team that will think, plan and serve together. Sign-up HERE for any of the ‘Leadership Info Sessions’. Hope to see you!
What we learn, we share.
Anything that promotes social giving is worth talking about here.