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How to Practice a Generosity of Spirit

What do you do when the things you long for this holiday season can’t be found in a catalog? We think it starts with being generous—not just with money or time—but a generous spirit. Read more on how you can cultivate a generous spirit this Thanksgiving below.
Generosity of Spirit

Did you know Amazon made a catalog? I didn’t either until they started showing up in my mailbox a couple of years ago. And suddenly, my kids became desperate for gadgets they never knew existed until they opened this catalog and saw all the options before them. Thanks for nothing, Amazon.

I could make this post all about the fight for contentment this time of year for my kids, but the truth is, my kids aren’t the only ones fighting a losing battle for contentment headed into the holiday season. I too find myself with my “want-er” ratcheted up, needing to remind myself, that so many of the things I’m craving aren’t things I actually need.

The problem is, the things I want aren’t found in an Amazon catalog (well, at least not all of them.) The things I want aren’t the latest editions or models of anything. It’s more complicated than that. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one.

I want one holiday meal to happen without someone getting political—about this administration or the last.

For once, I want a family gathering to take place without fear that someone is going to lose their temper and/or lose their mind and say or do something they may (or may not) regret later.

I want extended time with friends and relatives to at least barely resemble what a Publix commercial tells me the holidays should look like.

This year, when it comes to these things, my want-er is working overtime.

When my kids get caught in the want-er spiral triggered my Amazon catalogs and Target ads, TV commercials and internet scrolling, I tell them the best antidote to “wanting” anything—be it the tangible or intangible—is gratitude, coupled with generosity. A generosity of spirit.

But what does generosity look like when the thing you want isn’t an object, but a healthier conversation?

 

A Generosity of Spirit

 

What do you do when the thing you want can’t be Amazon Primed but requires the practice of patience, kindness, and goodness? What do you do when no amount of supply chain problems solved could help deliver the thing you so desperately want because it has more to do with the tone in the room than anything that’s found in the room itself?

It makes things more complicated, sure. But it doesn’t make it impossible. Just like generosity with our stuff combats our wanting of more stuff, a generosity of spirit can help us create the sort of holiday gathering we remember for all the right reasons.

Because the truth is, as much as I love a good Publix holiday ad, Publix is a liar. No one I know experiences a Thanksgiving meal like they make look possible. And maybe, just maybe, that’s okay. Maybe the thing I want is closer to being a reality when I learn to practice a generosity of my own. Not with my stuff. But with my spirit.

A generosity of spirit allows space for differences to exist, and empathy to arise.

It gives the best possible explanation for a tone that feels harsher than necessary.

A generosity of spirit works to find the commonalities that bind us, despite the glaring differences that separate us.

It doesn’t pretend actual conflict and real issues don’t exist. It just believes there is something deeper that connects us and matters more and—most of all—is worth fighting for.

And that’s what a generous spirit does. It fights for it.

 

A Liturgy for Thanksgiving

 

So for those headed into the holidays with dreams of a Publix commercial being your reality . . . For those fearful you’re walking into something more like Squid Game, my hope is you’ll find it in you to practice the generosity of spirit we could all use.

And if you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to a generosity of spirit, maybe this can help. Five years ago, in November of 2016, after the most contentious election I had ever lived through, I wrote a prayer for my conflicted family. This helped us pray together in hopes that what felt like insurmountable differences wouldn’t be the core of our story. We prayed this prayer that year, and we’ve prayed it every year since. It doesn’t make our differences go away. But it pushes us to be generous towards one another when we don’t always feel like it. Maybe it will do the same for you.

 

For family near and here,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For family far and gone,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For the ones easy to love,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For the ones we fight to love,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For people who see as we see,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For people we don’t understand,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For people who don’t understand us,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For easy conversation and expressed affection,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For gentle discord within our discourse,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For unity, not sameness,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For charity in all things,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For a world that reflects your goodness,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For humankind that bears your image,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

For a day when we’ll delight in our differences and not just tolerate them,

For a gathering of every tribe and every tongue,

For a table and a feast today, anticipating the one we’ll someday enjoy with You,

Lord, we give thanks.

 

Amen.

 

This liturgy can be found in Sarah’s book: The Space Between Us: How Jesus Teaches Us to Love Together When Politics and Religion Pull Us Apart.

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