What Ants Can Teach Us About Generosity
Generosity goes beyond the material act of donating large sums of money to a charitable cause. For some, being generous involves imparting spiritual support and guidance, while for others, it’s intangible assets like time and compassion.
We have this idea that giving money is more important than any other kind of act and can solve all of our problems. That’s not to say that money can’t be helpful, but it’s not the only way to be generous — and not necessarily the most effective, either. We need to be judicious when we think of what generosity means and how it may be perceived by those receiving it.
Putting Generosity Into Perspective
If you gave an ant a pound of gold, the insect probably wouldn’t be very grateful.
What can an ant do with a lump of gold other than being crushed by it? If you gifted an ant a pound of gold, the offering would probably remain right where you left it, untouched.
If you were to come by later and see the pound of gold abandoned, you would probably feel agitated, frustrated, angry, and resentful — after all, that was a generous gift! But by whose standards?
The ant doesn’t feel so blessed by your generosity. For the ant, gold has no value. It can’t sell it, eat it, break it up, share it, or even regift it. It is nothing more than a heavy lump — entirely worthless. A pile of breadcrumbs would hold more value to an ant.
You may not receive as much attention for offering breadcrumbs as you would for offering gold, but you will have done more good. Truly being generous means making a conscious effort to meet the needs of the recipient, whose ideas about kindness might be very different from your own.
Setting Intentions Through Compassionate Practice
As illustrated in our tale of the ant and the block of gold, generosity doesn’t always mean giving money; it means giving yourself in a way that benefits and positively impacts someone or something.
During the pandemic, I have witnessed numerous acts of generosity, including community members offering to go grocery shopping for the elderly or disabled, providing food and supplies to people in need, and donating masks to individuals working the front lines. Even small acts of kindness like checking in on a neighbor, spending time with a friend in need, making space at your dinner table, and sharing a laugh can make a difference.
There are so many acts of generosity that are meaningful, lasting, and free.
The government probably won’t give you a tax receipt for this kind of generosity, but the reward of positively contributing to someone else’s wellbeing is so much greater. When we start creating good intentions, our hearts grow bigger, and our lives become richer.
Maybe the outside world won’t see your actions, but your world is within you. Make that world a good place; keep that world clean and wholesome. Do that, and you will be known for your authentic generosity and kindness.
True generosity is about humility, not acclaim or fame. The rewards flow back in many beautiful ways when you do things out of goodness and without condition.
You don’t need a tax receipt to show compassion — you need a good, kind heart.
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