Reclaiming a Heart of Generosity

February 14 is best known for giving flowers and chocolate, sending sweet notes, and dining with those we love. Most of us participate willingly, but have questioned if Valentine’s Day is more about lining the pockets of the chocolate and flower industries rather than expressing love from our hearts. The past few years, it seems as though cupid’s arrow is aimed at a new target as Valentine’s Day slips into the shadows and Generosity Day steps onto the stage.

In 2011, Sasha Dichter of the Acumen Fund, brushed off a man asking for money on the subway. The next day, Dichter, convinced he made a mistake by denying the man, decided to embark on a personal 30-day Generosity Experiment and record his experiences on his highly read blog.

His experiment caught the interest of his readers so much so that three days before Valentine’s Day, Dichter declared February 14 as Generosity Day; a day to cultivate the practice of generosity, share love with everyone, and reclaim the over-commercialized Valentine’s Day holiday. With that, a new movement began with the simple goal of saying “yes” to helping others and truly practicing love from the heart, not out of obligation.

Why pick on Valentine’s Day? Dichter clearly explained he holds nothing against it, but it seems to him to have evolved into a formulaic holiday that had lost its meaning; it had become a holiday that most people admittedly seem to dread. Generosity Day makes it about love again – a “love in its purist form: giving without expecting anything in return.”

“Set the simple goal of saying “yes” to helping others and truly practice giving love from the heart, not out of obligation.”

Whether or not the heart of Valentine’s Day needs to be reclaimed, why not make February 14 a day to spread joy where you see fit? It could be by sharing your time, your money, or your words in big ways or in small ways. Conduct your own “generosity experiment” and enter the day with eyes open for opportunities to unselfishly enrich the lives of those around you. Be aware of the insights you gain, the fears you confront, and the attitudes you displace. As we look for and create space for generosity in our lives, willing and joyful giving become a natural reaction to the needs around us.

Be inspired! Here are suggestions to get you started on your own generosity experiment!

  • Buy lunch for a coworker
  • Write personal emails to friends telling them why you appreciate them
  • Over-tip your waiter or cabdriver
  • Smile
  • Volunteer at a local NGO
  • Give randomly to people on the street
  • Take clothes to Goodwill
  • Extend forgiveness, grace and patience to yourself and others
  • Compliment those around you

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