In my childhood home, we had a unique red velveteen bag. When you pressed on the bag in the right place, you heard the sound of someone laughing, really guffawing. The recording went on for at least a full minute and you could almost hear the person wiping the tears from his eyes.
We often invited guests to press the bag and when the sound of the recorded laughter would start, it would inevitably cause smiles and giggles. Sometimes we would challenge each other to listen to the recording and try to keep a straight face. Even though we knew what was coming, it was hard to resist laughing along.
One of the benefits of giving is that generous people are happier people. Michael Norton, a Harvard Business School professor of business administration, has studied the relationship between money and happiness. In a TEDx talk, he says, “If you think money can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right. You should stop thinking about which product to buy for yourself and try giving to other people instead.”
Perhaps this is obvious to Christians, given Jesus’ encouragement in Matthew 6 to not store up treasures for ourselves, but to live instead with generous eyes as the lamp of our body. According to Jesus, the alternative—when we store up treasures for ourselves—is to have bad or envious eyes that keep us in darkness. Sounds like Norton and Jesus may be on the same page on the connection between money and happiness.
An added benefit of giving is that it is contagious, or “contajoyous,” as I like to say it. Studies show that when a person acts generously, it inspires others who witness it to also be generous toward others.
Likely we have all heard of “pay it forward” stories in a local coffee shop when someone chooses to pay for the order of the next customer. Remember the news reports about the Dec. 21, 2012, phenomenon at a Tim Hortons in Winnipeg, where customers picked up the tab for the people behind them in line for three hours and 228 orders? There was something “contajoyous” going on!
This is what Paul wanted for the church in Corinth when he wrote to them about the generosity of the Macedonian churches in II Corinthians 8. “Out of the most severe trial,” wrote Paul, “their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” Just like them, “see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” Paul not only wanted the Corinthians to support his project, he also wanted them to be infected by the joy of giving experienced by the Macedonian churches.
Speaker and writer Brian Kluth writes, “Some people say, ‘Give till it hurts.’ But God recommends that we give until it feels good.” In Canada, we live in abundance and it’s important to be reminded that it feels good to give. When we live generously, we walk a road of joy and may inspire others to do the same.
Next time you find yourself laughing because someone else is laughing, remember that giving is “contajoyous” in the same way. To learn more about the benefits of giving, check out the “resources” tab on the MennoFoundation.ca website. Your example may inspire someone else to experience the joy of giving.
Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a stewardship consultant at Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC) serving generous people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit MennoFoundation.ca.