10 Acts of Generosity: Ideas to Help You Become a More Generous Human

Amber Murphy
Amber Murphy

Sometimes, truth be told, the world can be a little unkind and even unfair. Walk around in any major city in the United States, for example, and you’ll see hundreds of homeless people living on the street. Every day they’re there, living desperate and degrading lives while hanging onto their meager possessions. And all the while, people who have money, and food, and a home to live in, pass them by without giving them even a glance. There’s no consideration for any acts of generosity.

It’s not just the homeless either who are in desperate straits. Millions of families across the country, and the world, are barely scraping by. Restaurant workers, Uber drivers, gas station attendants, cashiers and so many more, scores of whom have families to feed, are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Immigrants who barely speak English, senior citizens living alone, men and women suffering from deadly or life-threatening diseases.

If you think about it long enough, it’s a situation that might just make you want to cry. But then, as if out of the blue, someone comes along with acts of generosity and kindness that restore your faith in humanity.

What are acts of generosity?

If you’re not sure what acts of generosity are, you haven’t been paying close enough attention to the news. It seems like, almost every week, there are new reports that a restaurant worker somewhere in America was given a massive tip on a tiny bill. Examples are everywhere you look. Danielle Franzoni of Alpena, Michigan received a $2020.00 tip on a $23.00 check in December of 2019. A very generous man in 2013 went coast-to-coast giving anonymous, and massive, tips at bars and restaurants everywhere he went, including one for $2500.00

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Maybe the best was an incredibly generous tip that was given just recently, right before the COVID-19 virus forced the shutdown of a popular Houston restaurant. Knowing that the staff would be laid off and in dire straights, a couple (who wished to remain anonymous) left the entire staff a tip of $9400.00!

That, ladies and gentlemen, is an act of generosity and abject kindness those restaurant employees will likely never forget, and an example that all of us should take during this time of crisis around the world.

Do acts of generosity need to be monetary?

The answer to this question is a resounding ‘no.’ While it is true that the term ‘generosity’ is usually reserved for when one person gives another, usually a stranger, money to help them get by, purchase groceries, pay rent, and so forth, that isn’t the only generous act a person can make. Real generosity comes in many different forms. 

The person who volunteers at a soup kitchen serving the homeless is being generous with their time. Someone who donates their car or boat is being generous too, as is the person who goes to their local retirement home and spends time reading and talking to senior citizens.

The fact is, anything that one person does for another out of the goodness of their heart can be considered acts of generosity, from mowing their neighbor’s lawn for free to giving a stranger a ticket to see a movie because they purchased too many. All of these, and more, are acts of generosity, even though no actual money has changed hands. 

What are some acts of generosity that anyone can do?

The truth is, the world needs more generous people and more acts of generosity. If you’re reading this article and you agree with that statement, bravo, you’re likely already a generous person. With that in mind, below we’ve collected a wide range of acts f generosity that you can do any day, at any time, for any person or people you choose. Remember, an act of generosity doesn’t need to involve money but can be a gift of time, energy, even your devoted listening, so don’t think that you need to give away money to be generous. 

1. Helping the elderly or the vulnerable

A person being assisted on the street

Whether there’s a crisis like COVID-19 or not, there are many people who need help daily. Older folks who can’t leave their home and have no family often need someone to help them with things like grocery shopping, keeping their home tidy, or getting to a doctor’s appointment. Then there are those who are suffering from illnesses that, for whatever reason, keep them confined to their home and need some of the same things.

Giving these people your time and energy by taking them to an appointment, helping them with their groceries, or even just sitting with them every few days and giving them a bit of company is an act of generosity that they will cherish and enjoy. It also might be a literal lifesaver, as many people who are stuck inside their home can become suicidal from the isolation and depression.

A beautiful example of this is happening in New York City right now during the coronavirus pandemic. Called Invisible Hands Deliver, it’s a group of nearly 3000 volunteers across the Big Apple who are braving the virus and the cold to deliver medicine, food, and even flowers to those who, for whatever reason, simply can’t leave their home. As acts of kindness go, this one is right up there at the top.

2. Donating a cash prize to a school

This act of generosity will blow you away. It involves a 3rd-grade teacher names Nicole Bollerman from Dorchester, Massachusetts, and the school she worked for in the same town. It seems that Ms. Bollerman entered a contest called “Wish For Others” that was sponsored by a national bank, with a grand prize of $150,000.00. Wouldn’t you know it, hers was the winning entry, and as promised, the bank gave her a check for $150,000.00, an amount that we think you’ll agree would change just about anyone’s life.

Ms. Bollerman had other plans for the money, however, and donated the entire amount back to her school. Amazed and impressed with her act of generosity, the mayor of Dorchester honored this incredibly generous teacher at their City Hall (and we can only assume her students now think she’s genuinely remarkable).

3. Pay for someone else’s groceries

Someone holding out a pile of coins

While we don’t have a specific story to relate here, all you need to do is Google “pay for strangers groceries,” and thousands of examples of acts of generosity will fill your computer’s screen. As we talked about earlier, many families in the United States struggle to pay their bills and, many times, that includes the grocery bill. Luckily there are many people out there who know this and, even better, do something about it by paying for a complete stranger’s groceries! Not just generous, this is possibly the kindest thing we can think of that one person can do for another: putting food on their table to feed their family.

Help people in need build confidence in their fellow human being by surprising them with a simple act as this. It doesn’t need to be an expensive grocery run. It can even be someone’s morning routine coffee.

4. Volunteering at a soup kitchen

Cans of soup on a stocked shelf

This generous act has been around for a long time, which is kind of sad when you stop to think about it. Yes, volunteering to help feed the homeless by working and serving them in a soup kitchen is one of the best acts of generosity, no doubt. What’s sad is that there are so many people who are homeless and need soup kitchens to get at least one good meal a day. As acts of generosity go, this is one that we hope will, someday, no longer be needed.

5. Paying the toll fee for other drivers

In many states across the US, there are toll roads with tolls every few miles, especially in the northeast. Little reminders that some states maybe aren’t as generous as others (we’re looking at you, New Jersey), there have been many instances over the years where drivers were the ones who had the generosity. That’s when, out of the goodness of their hearts, they not only paid for their own toll but also for the toll expense of several other cars behind them. We think you’ll agree that if acts of generosity like this happened more often, maybe there wouldn’t be so much ‘road rage’ on the highways.

6. Donating your things to charity

Person taking a pile of clothes to a donation

Our final ‘acts of generosity’ example is one that everyone should follow because it’s easy, it makes you feel good, and it can make a lot of other people feel even better. It’s giving your gently used things to a charity like Goodwill so that others can get them for free (or at an extremely reduced price). Like we said, donating your items is easy. It costs nothing, and it will help many others who are less fortunate. To engage in this acct of generosity, all you need to do is give to any of the places on the list (below).

  • Goodwill
  • Your Local Library
  • Dress for Success
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Baby2Baby
  • Local Food Banks
  • eBay Giving Works
  • The Salvation Army

Other ideas for acts of generosity

If you need more examples, here’s some other simple ideas you can try.

7. Offering your experience or knowledge to a charity board

Charities and charity boards often seek talented and experienced people to volunteer their time on their boards. You can offer your wisdom as an advisor or member, and have a real impact on the growth of charities you wish to support.

8. Mentoring a young person in your industry

New graduates and apprentices could use some mentoring and guidance. When you’re asked for advice, give it. If you have the opportunity to mentor someone in your industry, do it. Help young people self-actualize and lead a happy life through generosity of your time.

9. Offer to carpool or drive friends and family

Generosity isn’t just about giving your time and money, it’s also about saving other people’s time and money. If you share a common commute route with colleagues, offer to carpool with them.

10. Give blood

There’s always a need from foundations and hospital for more blood, especially if you have a rare blood type. Find a local blood drive and give some blood. It can save someone’s life.

Conclusion

Acts of generosity can be found in cities and towns across America. You don’t need to be wealthy to give generously and, in fact, you don’t need to give money at all but instead, time, caring, or things you already own but give away to do some good for your fellow human. So get out there and set an excellent example by getting involved in some acts of charity of your own. Trust us, the reward you get will be much more valuable than anything you could possibly give away.

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