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Generosity says a lot

By Judith Victoria Hensley

Plain Thoughts

Appalachians are generous people according to my own experiences. I’ve had strangers stop to help change a flat, people volunteer to help with projects I couldn’t do for myself, groceries show up on my doorstep when I was a struggling, newly divorced mom, and the list goes on and on. But I’m not only on the receiving end. Giving in ways that don’t always include money but do include time and sharing what resources I have are always part of my life.

According to which poll a person happens to see, the United States of America is always among the top ten most generous nations in the world. The list is based on giving money, giving time, helping strangers, and doing some form of volunteerism to help where there is a need.

According to the Borgen Project, Ireland comes in at fifth place; the United States of America in fourth place, New Zealand in third place, Australia in second place, and Indonesia in first place. It is very interesting to consider that except for the United States, the other countries would not be considered among the wealthiest countries of the world.

When I tried to discover these same markers to find out which states in our nation were the most generous, there was no such list. The statistics only reflected “charitable giving and Kentucky was in the bottom ten of that list. I personally find that very hard to accept. There are so many ways in which we give. Were contributions to our local churches and children’s organizations included? I’ve never been polled with any questions about whether I’ve helped strangers, volunteered my time, donated items to those in need or any of those things. Neither have any of my other friends across the state. Generosity comes in innumerable ways and often have nothing to do with cash money.

It is probably no surprise that the states noted as the most charitable are also among those with the greatest wealth. In like manner, individuals known for giving the most are among the richest citizens of the planet. Coming in first place is Bill Gates, followed by Warren Buffet in second place, and George Soros in third. The richest people in the world don’t have to give their money away, but absolutely no one needs the amount of money they are worth to live a meaningful, comfortable life. Whatever their motives are for giving, I say good for them!

I’m reminded, though, of the story in the Bible about the widow’s mite. As the disciples observed people giving money in the temple, a widow came and put in two copper coins that were about the equivalent of a penny. Jesus pointed this out to his followers, that this woman who had so little had given a gift that was of much greater personal value to her than those who were wealthy and had dropped in a great deal more money than the widow.

Would it take much more than a blink of an eye for Bill Gates to give $100,000 to a charitable cause? He would never feel the loss of it. Most of us, on the other hand would have to put a great deal of thought in to giving a much less substantial sum than that and we would feel the weight of it.

To me, generosity could best be defined as being willing to share our personal resources, great or small, where there is a need in which we can make a positive difference without expecting praises, accolades, or anything in return.