Towards a more generous life
16 May 2012 | Mike Dickson
For the last thirty years, most of us in the western world have
been having a party. We have been encouraged to be self-sufficient
and independent. To become successful, rich, search for true
happiness, and to find the 'real us'. To buy our own homes, invest
in shares, become entrepreneurs, travel the world and borrow as
much money as we liked to consume - 'things' that upon cool, calm
reflection we didn't really need. Or use. We have been cleverly and
ruthlessly advertised and marketed at to buy a lifestyle rather
than get a real life. We thought we had it all.
But now, the world is not in a happy state. And neither are most
of us. We are nationally, corporately and individually bust. Owing
unimaginable trillions that would make our own more prudent
forebears groan with disbelief, and which will take our children
decades to repay.
I think it is time to change the world. For every one of us to
wake up and decide that we, ourselves, can tackle the challenges
our society faces, as individuals and in groups. We all can become
leaders and authors of change, by living more generous, proactive
lives, by inspiring each other and by setting an example to our
friends and to our children.
We know in our hearts that it is good to be generous. Each one
of us feels far better about ourselves when we can help other
people, and we are touched when others are generous to us. A
generous life is a life well lived, and a happier life. The
challenge is to find a way to lead a more generous life in the real
As individuals we cannot hope to address the problems we and the
world face - socially, economically and environmentally - but
collectively we can. It is time to be more generous and build a
more generous world; a world not of you or me, but you and me. To
recapture some of the practical simplicities of the ways that we
use to live, when we were dependent on each other. To set out and
create a world, rather than acquire one. To take the first step
towards a more generous life.
Generosity isn't about money, though giving money to a good
cause or even a person - quietly and without ceremony - can be an
important element in a life worth living. Giving of ourselves is
the greatest act of generosity.
A generous life involves putting more effort into looking after
each other; becoming actively involved with our own communities;
speaking up for the poorest and most disadvantaged members of our
society and becoming their champions and ambassadors; paying
attention to the plight of the world's poorest people and learning
how we can help them; actively campaigning to save our planet;
amassing fewer things that we don't really need and withdrawing our
financial support from those who are destroying our world for
purely commercial gain. It involves acknowledging that we do care
about the destruction of the rainforest, about preserving fish in
the sea and tigers on land for our children to wonder at when they
are grown up. And that we value these things more than fabric
Our society is overflowing with people whose everyday lives do
indeed involve an enormous amount of love and care for others. Who
do their jobs, but who are also generous with their lives. We need
to cheer these people on, celebrate their work and create a mood
that encourages them to emerge and to thrive. In this book you will
read of extraordinary people who work tirelessly, seven days a
week, to help others. But there are many more - teachers, doctors,
nurses, ambulance drivers, charity workers, firemen, social workers
- whose daily work includes a generosity of spirit that we should
admire and applaud.
We want our children to be taught well and inspired to learn. If
we are ill, our lives might depend on a student nurse or a junior
doctor on their fourth night shift. A group of brave firemen might
save our home, a Macmillan nurse care for our mother. They are the
people upon whom we truly rely. And yet it is one of the sad
ironies of modern life that people often seem to be paid in inverse
proportion to their value to society.
But there is hope. We live in an exciting and optimistic age
where ideas, campaigns and movements can spread to millions of
people instantly through the internet and social networking sites.
All of us as individuals, families, schools, businesses,
politicians, journalists, faith leaders - young or old - can use
these outlets to spread the power of generosity and of living more
generous lives; to encourage each other, tell stories from
different countries and cultures, recount inspirational tales of
generosity that we have experienced, and report examples of the
generous acts we have done.
Because we are better than we have been, and because we can.
This article is taken from Mike Dickson's book Please Take One. Mike is founder of
the Rainmaker Foundation and charity Whizz-Kidz, and advises companies and
individuals on charitable giving.
Do things for others, Local community