A Time of Challenges, Changes, and Generosity

We’re well on our way to closing out one more in a string of extraordinary years. These have been times of remarkable challenges, changes, and, perhaps surprisingly, great generosity. Through three years with a pandemic in the foreground and now the background, people of all ages have suffered – all in different ways. The losses varied from unmistakable losses through death to more abstract losses as these years took their toll through stresses, strains, and changes of all kinds.

So it’s heartening to learn that these years of challenges and changes may have sparked in us a greater spirit of generosity.

Beyond Anecdotes

Of course, anecdotal evidence of generosity is easy to come by. BBC tells us the story of a someone living in homelessness who gives his last five pence to help a stranger keep her lights on at Christmas. The kindness of that simple, selfless act then multiplies.

We see it in the people we’ve never personally met offering generous words of encouragement. We see it in the outpouring of support for the whole nation of Ukraine as their homes and entire lives are blown up by a senseless invasion. This list of generous acts, large and small, could go on forever.

But even more impressive to us is the recent study of Ariel Fridman, Rachel Gershon, and Ayelet Gneezy in Scientific Reports. They analyzed charitable giving data for 696,942 charitable donations from mid 2016 through 2020 and found greater generosity sparked in people whenever their community was facing the threat of COVID-19. They saw the same in a “dictator” game that provides an experimental measure of generosity. When a COVID-19 threats grew in a community, participants in the game responded with greater generosity.

Self and Community

Self-care, self-compassion, and self-preservation are no doubt essential to our survival. But because we are social creatures, so too is our community. At times during these past three years, circumstances and a nasty virus have threatened to cut us off from that community. At times it’s been ugly.

Nonetheless, we see the human spirit for compassion and generosity shining through stronger than ever. So we are grateful.

Click here for the study by Fridman, Gershon, and Gneezy. For more on this research, click here and here. For more on fostering a spirit of generosity, click here.

Christmas, painting by Jozsef Rippl-Ronai / WikiArt

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December 25, 2022