Do you consider yourself a generous person? What does it mean to be generous?
The word generosity derives from the word generōsus, which means “of noble birth.” According to the University of Notre Dame in the U.S., which has developed an initiative to study the science of generosity, there was an aristocratic sense to the word. A generous person was one that belonged to nobility.
The meaning of the word generosity, however, has evolved over the centuries, becoming more identified with a nobility of “spirit” and more recently with being “open-handed” and liberal in the giving of money and possessions to others. Over time, it went from being something that was associated with elite nobility, to a learned character trait that involves both attitude and action.
According to their studies, in theory, any person who has a good and noble character has the capacity to exercise generosity by giving money, possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement and more.
The key words that strike me are “exercise” and “action.” Being a fundraiser, I spend the bulk of my day dealing with generous West Islanders who want to make a difference. Clearly, they share a character trait and a disposition towards “goodness.” But this trait alone is not enough to make things happen, it takes a willingness to act on it. This means posing a concrete action: making a donation to your favourite charity, giving your time as a volunteer, driving down to the local food bank with non-perishable goods, visiting a lonely family member, attending a fundraiser. A willingness to do good is not enough; one has to act on it.
I thank my lucky stars each day as I have the privilege of having one of the best jobs in the world: each day, I am surrounded by West Islanders who are generous. I speak to them, I meet them and I work with them. They all share something in common: they share a “giving back” attitude combined with concrete action. And that action brings change. It changes our community and makes it better than it was the previous day.
And on that note, I wish to thank the 200 generous West Islanders who came to the West Island Community Shares’ benefit auction on Monday night. Each of them exercised their generosity, which helped raise more than $82,000; bringing us closer to our $1.1-million target.
What about you? How will you exercise your generosity this giving season?
Caroline Tison is the executive director of West Island Community Shares.