When Giving Makes You Feel Rich Vs. Poor

Richard RichOn Thursday, I bought my best friend sushi, a treat she only rarely allows herself. On Friday, I took two of my aunts to see Boyhood, the Richard Linklater movie filmed over 12 years, which is a revelation. Better and truer than Tree of Life, and it actually made me want to spend time in Texas. On Saturday, I sent my little brother and his girlfriend to see a show at the Kennedy Center as a happy birthday! / farewell to DC, since Judah is off, with his new car, to start a job in Las Vegas. And on Sunday, I bought dinner for my husband’s godmother and her daughter, who were visiting from North Carolina.

I feel great. Better than great: I feel rich.

Sometimes being generous doesn’t work that way for me. I can buy a friend a book, or dinner, or a present, just because, or make a donation to a worthy cause, and feel sort of bereft afterwards — or at least stressed out about how much discretionary spending I should allow myself. Not regretful, just tense and sad, and then usually guilty for feeling tense and sad.

Other times, tinkling bells play lightly in the distance, meaning magic has happened. Maybe my weekend of giving worked in part because I recently had a birthday in honor of which so many people were generous to me, and it felt good to pay that generosity forward? In any event, I spent more than I anticipated — #MyLastHundredBucks, easy — although I haven’t counted up exactly how much, and I don’t care; it made me actively happy to do it. I do wish I understood the alchemy a little better, because getting to act from a place of abundance rather than scarcity, getting to feel rich by giving money away, especially to people you love, is kind of the best feeling ever.

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