How to be a Purposeful Giver

How to be a Purposeful Giver

A 3 year old boy’s version of giving

Because my grandson is 3 years old he is still having difficulty understanding the concept of giving. When he has ownership of an item he is willing to loan it – for a few seconds. He isn’t likely to give the item to anyone. Handing over his personal possessions to another is simply silly to him. “I got it and I’m gonna keep it,” is more often his attitude. Admonitions to “share,” or to “be nice” are likely to fall on deaf ears. Like his adult counterparts he really wants to know WIFM – What’s in it For Me?

What it means to give

In its most basic and simple form, giving means one person has ownership of something and hands the something to someone else. You can give time, money, possessions, attention, love, service, even your life. You can give small, medium or large gifts. You can give easy things or you can give until it hurts.

How giving affects you

Whether or not you believe the saying, “What goes around, comes around,” there are certain ways giving affects you. In some cases giving is followed by a feeling of grumpiness. In other cases there is a feeling of satisfaction. In still others, out right joy is the feeling achieved. With few exceptions, giving makes you feel good about yourself. Odd as it may seem, you are much more likely to remember when you gave something to someone else as opposed to when someone gave you something. I’m no expert in the psychology of giving, but my educated guess is that giving takes thought and preparation whereas receiving takes only an open palm. Givers are known as heroes, saints, supporters, patrons, role models and so on. Even when the giving is done anonymously or quietly givers are often blessed as much (or more) as the receiver.

What giving does for others

Many great leaders and other well known figures mention they would never have reached their goals or become the persons they are without the help of their mentors. President George Washington is known to have been mentored by Lawrence Fairfax. An account from the Great Falls Historical Society, VA website states, [Fairfax was] “very close to George, mentoring him in his formation as a gentleman and future statesman. He learned how to conduct himself at the highest level of society, which included learning manners and dancing, which was a favorite pastime of George’s. The Fairfaxes were like family to him. He remembered his time spent with them as the happiest time of his life.” There are also accounts of monetary gifts setting people on a road to accomplishment. Both Guy Johnson and Thomas Callahan helped launch James Cash. James Cash Penney, that is. You know the stores he founded as JC Penney. You’ve either received or know someone who has received a gift which filled a gap or met a distinct need. Some gifts are just for the fun of it, while other gifts can change the lives of both the giver and the receiver.

Is your gift purposeful or purposeless?

Even when a gift is just-for-the-fun-of-it the gift is made better by the thoughtfulness of the giver. When you know your best buddy is planning a fishing trip and wants a special lure for the new location where he’ll be fishing you have just found a purposeful gift. When you notice the family down the street has brought home a new baby and you offer to take care of the garden for a few weeks you’ve just given a purposeful gift. When you’re cousin confesses she is being abused and you find ways to help her move on you’ve given a gift with purpose. You’ve probably experienced a time when you felt obligated to give a gift to someone you didn’t know well. How do you choose an appropriate gift for someone whose lifestyle, desires or needs you don’t know? Perhaps someone has encouraged you to participate in a project which is ostensibly meant to help someone in need — but you know the need is at best a matter of repeated and deliberate poor decisions and at worst a sham. Maybe you’ve been in a third-world country or a distinctly poor neighborhood and agonized over how you can help the people you see. It could be you want to give the fellow on the corner, (the one who somehow found the money for a marking pen,) a buck or two. By using your journal to examine the possibilities, what’s feasible, what’s practical you can move from purposeless giving to purposeful giving.

Using your journal to plan for purposeful giving

Usually a purposeful gift takes care, thought and planning. Even spur of the moment gifts are best given following thought and consideration. Your journal will allow you to see solutions and possibilities as you dwell on others needs or requests. People you know well Write about the people you care about, their needs, your ability or your responsibility to help meet their needs. You can write about this in a general way or think in terms of one person you know has a need. You can write about possible solutions when you’ve received a request. The people in this category are your children, your parents, your grandparents, your extended family, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, your boss, your employees, the people you know well or see regularly. From birthday gifts to major projects (like grandpa’s faded and peeling house) you can use your journal to sort through the possibilities. You are probably pretty good at giving to those you know, care for and love. Yet you can still take advantage of your journal to explore ways to give in more meaningful ways, in fun and unusual ways, in more purposeful ways.

Those you know only slightly

Note in your journal the things you can do, buy or participate in for those you know only slightly. This category includes new neighbors, grocery store clerks, refuse workers, pest control attendants, handymen, postal delivery people, the “regular” homeless man on the corner, parents of your children’s teammates, part time care givers for your parents or grandparents, the people you know only by sight or sometimes by name, but you don’t know well. From thank you gifts to words of encouragement there are things you can give to people you know only slightly. Allow your creative thoughts to flow as you find ways to give to the people in this group. I’ve a friend who left an occasional box of canned drinks for the men who came every week to remove her trash. This thoughtful gift included cooling the drinks as well as taking them to the curb at the appropriate time. Another friend shared how he had used his journal to explore ways to help the homeless people he encountered as he drove the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada. His solution? He filled a basket with non-perishable and easily opened food and placed it in the back seat of his car. He included fresh fruit, sleeves of saltines, boxes of cookies, ring-top opening canned food, candy, bottled water and other items in the basket. He could easily reach into the basket and retrieve one or several items to be given to those he met. His solution is an excellent example of purposeful giving on the spur of the moment.

People you know about

From news accounts or coworkers or friends of friends you hear about people who have needs. Sometimes you know of groups, such as the local school band, who have desires to attend events or participate in competitions. Perhaps your neighbor tells you of someone she knows who can use a helping hand. People in another neighborhood, town, state or a foreign land who’ve faced major disasters also fit in this category. Use your journal to explore ways you can help on a one time or long term basis. Will you give a single gift of cash or pledge contributions for a long term? Your journal will also help you explore the possibility of donating your time or your skill for a family or community in need. You may consider becoming a member of or contributing to a service group such as The Red Cross, a religious organization, Habitat for Humanity, ARC, Big Brothers Big Sisters, local food banks, Make a Wish Foundation or Knowledge Equips among others. Your journal is a perfect place to thoughtfully explore ways to be a purposeful giver.

Try this:

  1. Using your journal, note at least one person or group from each category. (People you know well, Those you know only slightly and People you know about) Within the next three weeks give one gift per category.
  2. Make your plans
  3. Give your gifts
  4. Write about your purposeful gift giving adventures in your journal.


In the various adult editions of the Guided Journals from Journal in a BoxTM there is a place for you to record the many ways you give. You can use the space designated Notes and Jottings to explore ways to be better at purposeful giving. Or, if you are using the Almost Bare Edition you can simply include your gift giving thoughts and plans along with how and when you gave as well as to whom you gave.

As a lover of words, pens, paper and the dictionary I'm a natural for journal writing. But, I wasn't always faithful to the task and had to learn the hard way. Some trial and error as well as input from my journal writing friends helped move me along. I have a burning desire to help people who want to use and get the most out of their journals and diaries. I see journal writing as a self improvement tool and a way to avoid costly mistakes, bad relationships and my stinky-self. Finding my kindly self is part of the journey which keeps me writing. I Journalate and so can you.

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