Practicing Generosity in College

Most likely you’ve lived long enough to know by experience the deep truth embodied in God’s Word: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The older and more mature we become, the more joy we experience in giving—and the less value we place on getting stuff for ourselves. Nothing compares to the “giver’s high” we experience when we pour out love onto another human being and see it transform their countenance—bringing a brightness to their eyes and a sparkle to their smile.

But in college it’s challenging to be generous. The reason we hold back from giving is not so much that we don’t want to give; it’s that we are genuinely broke! Tuition makes us feel backed into a corner financially and there just isn’t the funding to match our heart’s desire to give expensive gifts to our friends and family. However, don’t let this finer point trick you into thinking you can’t still be generous—not just at Christmastime, but all year long! Let these ideas spark your giving spirit so you’re able to lavish love on the ones closest to your heart this year:

Give Creatively. I still remember the year I was home from college to celebrate Christmas in my beloved home state of Montana with my family. My brother and I were both broke college students. His gift to me was an empty Mt. Dew bottle. Attached to the bottle was his hand-printed label: “Filled with Montana air.” It was worth a good laugh! And it touched on a sentimental part of my heart that was missing home, as well. When money is tight, our ingenuity must kick in! Consider giving away something you already have…not something you’d donate to a thrift store anyway, but something you treasure: a much-loved sweater or favorite book. The act of generosity will go a long way in communicating heartfelt and sincere affection. Or think about making something! Bake cookies or make a batch of homemade granola. Paint a picture if you’re artistic or if you’re good with words, write a letter or poem to your loved one. Framing your “art” in any form captures it in a unique, fun way. The gift of words will most likely be treasured for years to come!

Give Time and Service. One Christmas, my college boyfriend and I decided a fun way to bless our professors would be to give them anonymous gifts. We couldn’t afford to spend a lot, but we wrote our unsigned notes of appreciation along with Dairy Queen gift cards, and snuck them into the teachers’ lounge mailboxes so our favorite instructors would know they were loved. It was probably just as fun for us as it was for them! Jesus himself did not come to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). Is there a way you can serve someone in your home or community this year? Think about creating a book of “coupons” for while you’re on break. You could give your parents a “free concert” if you’re musical (they’ve missed hearing you practice, I can almost guarantee) or include coupons such as “one free carwash,” “one half hour back rub” or “dishes done without being asked.” Remember that what your family is most-likely craving most is YOU, so an amazing gift could be time spent playing a sport or game with a younger sibling, or taking a family member out for coffee and just reconnecting one-on-one after a busy semester. Simone Weil wisely said, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

Give Sacrificially. Sometimes you will feel a nudge to give beyond what feels natural. Maybe the finances won’t quite add up, but you’ll feel the Spirit nudging you to go beyond what feels obvious and comfortable and to love lavishly and unselfishly. I think about Mary, who poured out expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, wiping His feet with her tears and long hair. Though she took criticism for this action, Jesus said, “She has done a beautiful thing.” He pointed out that the poor will always be there, “but you will not always have me” (Mark 14:6-7). And it is true of the people in our lives as well. They will not always be here, because life is a fleeting vapor. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late.” So though it’s not advisable to go into debt on Christmas spending, sometimes its ok to just give a gift of extravagance because it is on your heart to do it. So this Christmas, love lavishly. Savor the small moments. Hold the ones you love close. And pour out generosity in whatever ways possible!