Community Giving & Generosity

Interview: Generosity is a Lifestyle

Generosity is a Lifestyle
Emmanuel Sandeep
Written by Emmanuel Sandeep

Flatfish Network was set up in 2012 with a vision to be the ‘Voice of Generosity’ in India. With their two-pronged strategy to:
1. Enable better lifestyles
2. Encourage generosity.
In this interview, Emmanuel gives us insight and practical advice on how we, as a nation, need to start looking at giving and generosity as a lifestyle and not just an act of charity.

What is your definition of generosity?
Generosity is more of an attitude than a monetary amount. It’s really about why and how we give – rather than how much. Having said that, we need our giving to make a significant difference to quality of life. Until then, it’s not generosity- it’s still only charity.

How is generosity more of an attitude than a monetary amount?
We need to be generous in our relationships. Keep open homes so that people are welcomed. Your home must to be a place of refuge for young people. We need to be generous in forgiving. We need to be wiling to empower people, especially those younger and let them take our mantle and run. We can also ensure that we generously let other deserving people get their promotions rather than being in their way causing obstructions because of our own insecurity and selfish desires. Our giving comes out of our security where we know that God is our provider. When God provides for us we are called to provide for others and this comes to pass by having a lifestyle of generosity.

What do you think are the benefits of giving to one’s quality of life?
This good old Chinese saying is so true – when you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; show him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. We are called to be the salt and light in this world. We must ensure the people around us are not living in darkness for long. We need to empower and invest in them to grow and come up in life. It gives them a standing in society. Educating children is a huge blessing as it brightens their future. It not just builds the child but has all the potential to improve the quality of life of the family. We have been given, not to hoard our wealth but to build lives.

As individuals, do we need to select a strategy — how do we decide?
A strategy is required but there are times when we just need to listen to our inner voice.

We love to give where our heart is… what your heart beats for. In the Generosity Summit 2015, we had presented to the leaders nearly 10 credible organizations/need areas to help and get connected to their personal area of passion. Once you have identified the area where you want to influence, plan your strategy. Not for an event but for a process of building, empowering and a long-term investment in changing lives. Financially plan for a regular long-term strategy to sustain.

However, there are times as well when one-time and immediate needs come up, like medical expenses, accidents, calamities, where we might just need to give. This is where you listen to your heart.

How do we effectively model generous giving without making it a show?
Simply don’t expect any returns. Don’t expect your name to be put in the newspapers or written on the gifts that you have given. Don’t get upset if you name is not called out in the vote of thanks. Avoid expecting the person whom you have helped to be grateful or indebte.d to you for all their life. “It is more blessed to give than to receive”- Bible. The blessing is purely in giving.

What are some misconceptions about giving?
Generosity goes beyond charity. When I was young I used to give food to a beggar and felt happy. When we give food to a beggar we give our leftovers. Just dumping leftovers, in my opinion, is not giving.

Giving our old clothes – I think that only getting rid of what we don’t need, is not giving. We must try to give new clothes. I get very upset when organizations ask for old clothes for charity. Please be generous and start encouraging people to buy new clothes to give away. Let’s be honest, no one likes hand-me-downs!

Taken for granted – Many do not give fearing that the receiver will take advantage of him. We do not lend because of the fear of being cheated. If someone cheats you or takes advantage of you, that is not your problem. The person is accountable to God for his wrongdoing. We are accountable to God for what we are called to do, i.e., give generously.

Generosity goes beyond making us feel good. When Christmas comes everyone thinks of charity, to visit prisons, help the needy etc. Why? Why can’t it be a yearlong process? Christmas season is about giving, but a person who is generous gives throughout the year. Generosity is a lifestyle not an activity done to check off the to-do list.

The big danger is that children are learning it the wrong way. We must teach our kids to buy a pair of shoes for a needy child from the same money that they get, so that they learn to share. We need to teach them that true giving pinches. As a Christian I believe that’s exactly what God did. He gave his only son. Though our giving cannot be a match, but we need to emulate the principle behind it.

How would you evaluate the condition of Indian society when it comes to generosity?
Aakar Patel in his article “Why Indians don’t give back to society” nails it by saying that we are an ‘opportunistic culture’. He says the visible way of seeing this is in motion. When driving, if the traffic is halted, we do not hesitate to block the oncoming side as well since there is space. If not policed, we see that as an opportunity to do what is easy for us even though it is dangerous to someone or even illegal. The challenge comes from the magnitude of population as well. For me, as a Christian, one of the basic teachings that Jesus brings is that He wants us to love our neighbors just the way he loved us. I cannot accept the love and fail to demonstrate the same in my relationships with other people.

Are there any statistics or research that you can share with our readers on giving habits in India?
Times of India on 11-Nov-2015 brought out The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) World Giving Index. This is a study based on surveys done in 145 countries carried out by Gallup. In 2015 India is ranked 106 in the World index. We are ranked 116 when it comes to helping a stranger; in donating money we are ranked 96 and we are ranked 82 in volunteering. Though we might have the highest number of people who are helpful because of our sheer population, the percentage is actually what counts. We being ranked 106 in 2015 says there is room for improvement. Positive side is that we are doing better compared to our 2010 ranking which was 134th Meenakshi Batra, Chief Executive of Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) India says “Wealth in India is predicted to grow significantly in the coming years. If this is to benefit the entire Indian population through better standards of living rather than simply widening the gap between rich and poor, we  must do more to engage people in addressing development gaps.”

How would you encourage the view that giving isn’t just a concern of wealthy people?
We are called to be generous with people who work under us, like helpers at home, colleagues, small business vendors etc. Most of us want to step in to help when tragedy strikes, but generosity is foreseeing a tragedy and investing in helping prevent it.

Most of the time this requires love and concern to be shown to people in our areas of influence. We don’t need wealth but a heart to love people even though they don’t deserve it. Generously opening our homes for people, forgiving quickly, building bridges in relationships are the essential habits we need to practice.

What are some ways in which people can make generosity a daily practice?
• Pay your maids, drivers as per minimum wages and more. Don’t take them for granted. They all need employment conditions just like yours.

• Give to people graciously and not as per what they deserve.

• Actively look for opportunities to give, contribute, influence and enhance someone’s quality of life. There are enough people who need your help around you. Choose who you want to help. In India, it’s a lie to say that you cannot find people to help.

• Organizations need to focus on fund-raising for people who make projects happen and not just fund the projects.

• You might not be able to meet all the needs, but meet the one for which your heart beats. Find your calling.

Could you share a story of generosity you have experienced over the years?
I grew up with people around me who invested in me generously. As a teenager, I had my Sunday School teacher invest in me by generously keeping an open home, not just for me but all my friends. This cost them, but providing food, support and godly conversations mattered a lot to me. In my professional life, I had bosses who generously were willing to empower the younger generation. I was made the Lead Pastor of a fast growing Pearl City Church when I was 32 and as well trusted with the responsibility of being a CEO-Asia for JMM at a young age. They took risks and were generous in empowering. I was blessed with working under leaders who believed in generously empowering and that motivated me to constantly prove myself and God honored my faith.

I realized that their generosity came from their security in God and that is why they were willing to empower and hand over, rather than control and hold on.

What can you say to inspire the readers to become better givers?
Lack of generosity is a cultural challenge. Let’s not just give but let’s give the best. Let’s give irrespective of what people deserve, i.e., showing grace.

We keep thinking this change is not for me, it’s for someone else. Who? It’s for you and me. We are blessed to be a blessing. Generosity is a lifestyle. It’s time to wake up.

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