What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of generosity? If you're like me, you think big. Mother Teresa, enormous charitable donations or adopting a child without a family. While those are wonderful things to aspire to, I'd like to encourage us to broaden the definition. Generosity can be so much simpler than that. It doesn't have to require wealth or dedicating your entire life to a cause. There are countless opportunities to practice generosity every day.

Everyday Ways to Practice Generosity

  • Make a Kiva loan
  • Mentor a child (or anyone)
  • Volunteer for a couple hours
  • Give a stranger a compliment
  • Bring a meal to a homeless person
  • Ask a friend how you can help them
  • Send a friend a letter or gift just because
  • Donate the possessions you no longer use
  • Call (or video chat) your mom, dad or grandparents
  • Introduce two people you think might benefit from meeting
  • Listen to someone and talk about something they want to discuss
  • Be empathetic enough to hear out an opposing viewpoint without ridiculing it

I could keep going, but I view these acts of kindness as generosity because they require some thought, time or energy. They are giving, although some of them are not always the first things we think of.

It's easy to focus on generosity as grand gestures and it's human nature to want to strive for that. But let's not forget the fundamentals. Just as you need to master a 5K before the marathon or the habit of writing before a best-selling novel, you can practice small acts of generosity before you're able to do something bigger. It's better to start small and build than to put things off for another day. Besides, who's to say the small acts are any less meaningful?

There is no assurance that you'll be able to change someone's life, make their day or even elicit a smile, but I do know that you'll feel better if you try than if you didn't make the effort at all. Be generous with generosity - it's not something to be frugal with. You’ll be surprised how important that is to the world.

P.S. Let's build on this list of everyday ways to practice generosity. Leave one in the comments below.


Kiran Umapathy is a writer living in San Francisco. When he’s not wrangling words for Airbnb, Holiday Matinee or PSFK you may find him hosting vinyl record nights, biking those 49 square miles, or putting in time on one of his curious side projects.

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