“It’s better to give than receive.” In a world that’s commercialized and in a season that’s oftentimes defined by excess, it’s important to get back to the heart of what the season is all about: Christmas is always a great time of the year to think about giving to others, to both family and friends, and to vulnerable people around the world.
In the book More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity, author Jeff Shinabarger shares practical stories of people who combat personal excess with heartfelt and generous giving. Jeff is a social entrepreneur, a designer, and a creative director. He is the founder of GiftCardGiver.com and Plywood People, an innovative community addressing social needs.
At this time of the year, many of us want to do all we can to stand with the vulnerable. But it’s also easy to feel like we can’t do as much as we’d like—or anything at all. But what if, as Jeff suggests, our ability to make a difference could be impacted by asking ourselves the question, “What is enough?”
Out of our excess we can address needs. But it begins with defining what is enough. What is enough?
It’s a subjective definition that we all have to ponder at some point in life. Unfortunately we’ve diminished the idea of generosity to money; too often we think we are generous only when we are giving money.
But what might you have in excess that has nothing to do with money? Excess clothes? Excess social capital? Excess amount of square footage?
We can ask the question, “What’s enough?” in every aspect of life. And if we choose to live with less, we gain the opportunity to give more.
Consider these easy moves:
- Look into your kitchen pantry or cupboard and set aside five cans of food. Deliver them to the nearest food bank in your area, and have a conversation with the person receiving your donation. Chances are, you will learn something new, and it will make you think differently about your next meal. Share your experience with a friend. Food is a basic and essential need for survival, and it’s one of the best things you can distribute to those in need. In Africa, there is a concept known as ubuntu—the profound sense that you are human only through the humanity of others; that if you are to accomplish anything in this world it will be in equal measure due to the work and achievement of others. Part with your surpluses and overloads, and feed your soul.
- Go to your closet and drawers and pull out every piece of clothing that you own. Count the items. Sort them. How many days could you go without wearing the same thing twice? Are you satisfied with your number, or do you have excess? If you feel you have too much, then decide what is enough for each category of clothing. Then pare down your garments to meet your reasonable number, and donate the rest to a charity or sell them at a resale shop and use that money to make a donation to help the vulnerable. Kelsey Timmerman says, “The people who make our clothes are poor. We are rich. It’s natural to feel guilty or apathy or reject the system that does nothing to help. This quest is about the way we live; because when it comes to clothing, others make it, and we have it made. And there’s a big, big difference.”
- Dump all the change everyone in your family has accumulated. Count it up, organize it roll by roll, and give it to an organization that’s working to help lift someone out of poverty today. G.K Chesterton wrote, “There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”
- Keep an ‘excess bin’ in your house. Keep it for anything that you are not actively using anymore, and that could contribute to fill the needs of others. This bin can then be used for garage sales to raise money for orphans or charities. Committing to a place to gather your excess on a consistent basis will challenge how you live regularly. “If we value things of the world, we will miss the things of true value,” Kim Biddle says.
Generosity is a chance to experience freedom in a world obsessed with gaining more. And as we near the end of the year, let's consider how making a few simple changes can increase our capacity to stand with the vulnerable, and to be changemakers in our world. As we bring significant change to others, we’ll be changed, too!
For more from Jeff, watch his TEDx talk and follow him, @shinabarger.
Join a community of Changemakers—ordinary people who step out in faith to do extraordinary things. Visit worldrelief.org/change to double your impact during the month of December, and join us at World Relief as we stand with the vulnerable.