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The practice of giving

I think, for the most part, humans are very giving. We contribute to Go Fund Me pages, we donate food to local pantries and we tip generously. But what does it mean to be a giver? Do you have to give up everything you own? Do you have to be willing to give up all your free time, your cash, your body's organs?

There are many ways to give that don't involve writing checks to charities - although you absolutely could. There are ways to give that don't deplete your resources, energy and time. The trick is exploring different ways to give until you find the one that works for you.

For instance, if you're struggling and it's hard to put food on the table, donating to a food bank probably isn't your best option.

So how can we practice giving in ways that feel genuine and heartful? Here are some tips to practice giving. Find what you can do and get out there and give freely.

  • Smile. Something changes when you smile at someone. You create a connection. Maybe you make eye contact and smile at the barista at Starbucks or you smile at your neighbor when you see them in the park. Maybe you smile at your spouse. In fact, be SURE to smile at your spouse.

  • Be kind. Giving kindness is easy. Maybe sending kind thoughts to your kids or family members. Maybe sending someone a text or a handwritten note to let them know you're thinking about them. Maybe letting the person in line at the grocery store go in front of you because they are buying a box of Kleenex and you're buying food for a family reunion. Search out ways to be kind and you'll find a shit ton of opportunities.

  • Drop judgment. When people feel judged by you, they feel shame, guilt, insecurity and inadequacy. No one should feel that way. If you approach people with the idea we're all human and doing the best we can, you give them the opportunity to prove that. This is hard for me (with idiot Utah drivers) but the more I give people the benefit of the doubt, the better I feel about life, in general.

  • Have an open heart. Are you going to agree with every person on this planet? Hell, no. Can you be accepting of all types of people? Hell, yes. Give support to people who are disenfranchised. Donate to causes that bring people together. Notice when your own prejudices come up and work through those to give and love with an open heart. This is also hard for me because I disagree with SO MANY people right now. But I'm learning and trying to be better.

  • Give your time. There are many organizations doing great things - and they all need volunteers. What are you passionate about? You could volunteer with Meals on Wheels, Make-A-Wish, public schools, hospitals, youth groups, LGBTQ+ events and so much more. You could knit blankets for premature babies or teach yoga at a women's shelter. Find what you love and give your time.

  • Give your attention. Sometimes, people just need someone to hear them. They don't need advice, direction, guidance or coaching - they just need a listening ear. You don't even have to say a word, just listen intently with kindness, love and understanding. That could mean listening to a 6-year-old's long, long, boring story, or listening to your husband describe his shitty day at work. We all just want to know someone hears us.

If I leave any legacy, I would want it to be that I was giving of my time, my heart, my talents and my love. Practice giving. Start small. Go big. Go all in. It will be worth it.

Peri Kinder is the owner of Life & Laughter Coaching. She's a laughter coach, yoga and meditation instructor, and award-winning freelance writer. She is the host of the Life & Laughter podcast.

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