Generosity: GIFTS of Community
Generosity is a way of life rooted in what we give ourselves and others. Generosity, the art of giving without the expectation of return, creates abundance when practiced regularly.
Backed by science, generosity is a known intervention to improve our quality of life and improve our health. Generosity – on neurobiological, interpersonal, and social levels - is known to reduce stress, support our immune systems, and enhance our sense of purpose.
According to Dr. Lisa Firestone, clinical psychologist, generous people create generous communities. She writes, “When we are in a giving state, we are more relaxed [and therefore less stressed], attuned, and living in the moment. This state of being is contagious; people who are generous often create a snowball effect in others who want to pay it forward.”
In turn, it’s important to remember that generosity is not only about the act of giving. Generosity is also about the act of receiving. While we often celebrate acts of generosity in others, many of us fail to embrace generosity's fundamental second step: allowing others to be generous with us.
Accepting generosity is an important part of allowing ourselves to experience the many benefits of leading a giving life to create prosperous communities of support, sharing, and safety.
The link between giving and positive emotion is a cornerstone of positive psychology—the scientific study of having a “good life.” The field explores strengths that enable us to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within ourselves, to build safe and strong communities, and to enhance our experiences of love, work, and play.
In being generous, the sensitivity that we feel towards others, allows us to be more sensitive to ourselves.
In "The How of Happiness", author and psychologist, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky states that “being kind and generous leads us to perceive others more positively and more charitably. It fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in our social community.”
Through the generosity of patients and staff, Stephen Klein Wellness Center (SKWC) offers the gifts of community-building opportunities and mission-driven care to create deeper, more diverse connections.
Peter Block, Cincinnati-based consultant, in his book Community: The Structure of Belonging explores the two-fold nature of community: While we’re members of community, community itself is in our ownership. We’re responsible for developing, protecting and growing it – we’re responsible for creating our community.
At SKWC, there is a deep sense of social connectedness.
Here, we have a diverse community because staff and patients alike generously offer their time and talent to engage in wellness programming.
Healthy Hearts, one such wellness program led by Director of Nursing Lisa Greenspan, creates a community in which participants can find company and generosity in their wellness journeys.
It’s an inclusive weekly class that provides information on lifestyle changes to improve patients’ blood pressure and overall health.
Class topics include nutrition label literacy, mindfulness techniques, and how trauma can impact health. The curriculum also includes a biweekly cooking class led by Chef Char Nolan, a local plant-based chef. Participants cook and learn together, report on recipes that they have tested, and celebrate each other's successes.
Mark Souders, a member of the Healthy Hearts community, described generosity as “helping other people to keep the community active and alive. If people aren’t generous, the community will fall apart.”
Healthy Hearts participants have an uncanny talent for offering gentle support for those who need it and celebrating those who have made strides in their health.
Aleta Abdul-Qaadir, another Healthy Hearts community member, noted that “even if we have some differences, we have more similarities. We’re all grateful for the opportunity in our neighborhood to heal ourselves instead of just medicating ourselves.”
Dorothy Thompson agreed, saying “Chef Char comes into the community to teach people that you don’t have be rich to eat healthy and be better.”
Healthy Hearts is a perfect example of what a community program inspired by generosity looks like, as it exists only because of the generosity of its community partners, as well as SKWC staff and participants.
GIFTS, our acronym for generosity, stands for growing, investing, feeling compassion, thanking, and sharing. Healthy Hearts offers SKWC many gifts.
- Growing – Grow with the flow. Much of life is out of our control, and throughout our lives we will both need to generously support others and need to receive the generous support from others. This mantra also helps us seek encouragement to move along with and accept prevailing trends and forces, which will allow us to be mindful participants in our communities. Personal development, this growth, covers activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life as well as health, and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.
- Investing - At its core, generosity proceeds from our hearts (what we value) and our minds (how we see generosity’s importance in our lives). It’s not strictly a financial exercise, although much generosity is received through monetary donations and grants. Many of us think about generosity as a tangible, practical approach that encapsulates some type of monetary action. While true, we can also view the practice of generosity as an investment in what we can offer, such as classes, perspective, ideas, initiative, and talents.
- Feeling compassion – Compassion is the deep awareness of the suffering of others, as well as our own suffering, coupled with the wish to relieve it. Compassion fuels generosity. According to Dr. Kristin Neff, psychologist, we practice compassion most authentically by acting with kindness, reflecting on our common humanity, and practicing mindfulness.
- Thanking – In last month’s blog, we explored the concept of gratitude. Director of Nursing Lisa Greenspan offers two community-based groups at SKWC, Healthy Hearts, the weekly class targeted on treating hypertension, and her weekly Drop-In Diabetes Class, which focuses on diabetes prevention and management. Some of her participants in the diabetes class collectively defined gratitude last month. They said, “Gratitude is an attitude, with a quality of being thankful. Gratitude is a way of life. Gratitude is being appreciative for life itself. Gratitude is kindness.”
- Sharing – Generosity, the art of giving without expecting anything in return, is most simply practiced by sharing. When we share our material goods, money, talent, time, and space, we empower and support others on a journey of healing, while supporting our own.