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Generosity | What's the greatest gift you could give?

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What’s the greatest gift you could give?

What’s the greatest gift you could give?

by Moyra Mackie on September 19, 2016

The other day my twenty-year old son baked a cake for the 18th birthday of his girlfriend’s sister.    This was the first cake he’d made since he was little and we used to bake together – him standing on a chair, with a grown up’s apron folded over to fit him.

Suddenly, like it was yesterday, I see him learning to break eggs that are as big as his toddler hands. I can hear him laughing as he turns the electric whisk to High on purpose just to see the resulting cloud of flour and sugar.

Moments together AND the subsequent memories are great gifts

Along with kicking endless footballs and counting and categorising dinosaur and train collections, I took up baking as a way of spending quality time with my son. But as he grew out of needing a chair to stand on, he outgrew the desire to spend time doing this and I lost the chance to spend that time, just him and me.

Sometimes we mistake a gift for a burden

Whilst I can see those moments as clear and precious gifts now, I didn’t always appreciate them.  I turned down moments because I was too busy, too tired and – yes sometimes –  just a little bit bored.

Great gifts last for a long time

I was surprised that after more than a decade my son was choosing to go back to baking.  It wasn’t an easy choice as he had to borrow everything he needed.

Instead of Google, he rather touchingly turned to me for a recipe and advice; phoning me half way through beating the cake mixture to check what it should look like.  He was using a wooden spoon, so it was demanding patience and elbow grease.

What impressed me most was that this was not necessary

He could have easily bought a cake or some other gift.  But he chose to give his time and his effort.  In the process he pushed himself to try something outside his comfort zone.

What gift could you give?

We all have opportunities every day to give meaningful gifts.  It doesn’t have to be a cake. And it doesn’t have to take long.

It could be stopping to listen properly to a friend or colleague.  It could be offering to help someone who is struggling.  It could be calling someone we care about instead of texting them.  It could be opening a door for someone else when you’re in a hurry or thanking someone who usually gets overlooked.

Gift giving – kindness and generosity – is a habit that can be honed

Christine Carter, the author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents discovered in her research that acts of kindness and thinking of other people rather than ourselves is the route to happiness.  She asks her children two questions at dinnertime:

  • What’s one kind thing you did today?
  • What’s one kind thing somebody else did for you?

She writes about what happened when she first tried this:

They could come up with kind things they had done, but they couldn’t come up with any kind things that others had done for them. I said to them, “Seriously? I just drove you all over the county to your activities, I made you dinner and helped with your homework, and you can’t think of anything anyone’s done for you?” That sort of changed their perspective on gratitude, and a whole series of conversations started to happen.

What kind of conversations could you start at work?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if managers and co-workers changed the questions they asked each other at work?  If we focused on recognising well-intentioned actions, rather than on being busy, what kind of co-operation and creativity might emerge?

Kindness and generosity drive connection and well-being

We’re hard-wired for connection – it lights up the reward centres in our brains. None of us has to wait for an officially sanctioned program before getting started. Whether at home or at work we could all  answer the question:

What was the most precious gift you gave today?

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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