Sacrificial, Extravagant, Radical, Unconditional Generosity

Sacrificial, extravagant, radical, and unconditional generosity. That’s what I had the privilege to witness this evening. I was also humbled and blessed to be one of the recipients of that generosity. A large, blended family, with limited means, struggling with countless barriers, in a tough neighborhood, invited ten guests into their humble rented home for a feast of a meal that likely seriously stretched their grocery budget. Their extended family had spent the whole day helping to prepare our meal. They were nervous and excited to have all of us come to their home. “We just wanted to express our gratitude for all the ways you all have helped us over the past year,” they told us in a poignant and moving toast before our meal together.

That experience this evening has me reflecting on the difference between their family’s generosity and the generosity demonstrated through Friday’s ExtraOrdinary Give. Don’t get me wrong. There’s no question that Friday’s donations of over ten million dollars in 24 hours for local non-profit organizations is certainly extravagant and radical generosity. But I’m struck by the contrast between generosity offered by people with privilege (heck, just to donate through the ExtraGive, you have to have a credit card – which requires a certain level of income to obtain – and you have to make a minimum donation of $25) and the kind of sacrificial and wholly unconditional generosity I received and witnessed tonight. Generosity offered by people on the very margins of our community – people who would fit various categories of the “target populations” served by many of the non-profits that participated in the ExtraGive.

How often, in our charitable giving (or even our day-to-day acts of generosity to others) do we truly give in a way that requires any real personal sacrifice? And I think it’s fair to say that our charitable giving is rarely unconditional. In fact, non-profit organizations go to great lengths to track and report outcomes measures to prove to donors that their contributions are yielding the kinds of “results” the donors expect.

Being on the receiving end of sacrificial, unconditional generosity tonight was incredibly humbling. I’m used to being on the other end of that equation. And I like to think of myself as a generous and giving person. But this lovely family who offered up so much tonight taught me something real and powerful about a kind of generosity borne out of gratitude, a generosity that requires some personal sacrifice, a generosity that’s offered up freely, with no strings attached.

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