An inclination to give is written on your soul, no matter how muted it may be by your present concerns or lack of belief. Sometimes it takes a traumatic experience to bring that God-given pull toward generosity to the surface. Horror novelist Stephen King is not usually associated with sharing timeless biblical principles. But in a commencement speech delivered to Vassar graduates a few years ago, he offered some powerful insight on living an openhanded life. Here’s an excerpt from his comments:
An inclination to give is written on your soul, no matter how muted it may be by your present concerns or lack of belief.
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“A couple of years ago I found out what ‘You can’t take it with you’ means. I found out while I was lying at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like the branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in the ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.
We all know that life is ephemeral, but on that particular day and in the months that followed, I got a painful but extremely valuable look at life’s simple backstage truths. We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffet? Going to go out broke. Bill Gates? Going out broke. Tom Hanks? Going out broke. Steve King? Broke. Not a crying dime.
All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade–all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors. It’s still going to be a quarter-past getting late whether you tell the time on a Timex or a Rolex. No matter how large your bank account, no matter how many credit cards you have, sooner or later things will begin to go wrong with the only three things you have that you can really call your own: your body, your spirit, and your mind.
So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And why not? All you have is on loan, anyway. All that lasts is what you pass on…
We have the power to help, the power to change. And why should we refuse? Because we’re going to take it with us? Please. Giving is a way of taking the focus off the money we make and putting it back where it belongs, on the lives we lead, the families we raise, the communities that nurture us.
A life of giving–not just money, but time and spirit–repays. It helps us remember that we may be going out broke, but right now we’re going O.K. Right now we have the power to do great good for others and for ourselves.
So I ask you to begin giving, and to continue as you began. I think you’ll find in the end that you got far more than you ever had, and did more good than you ever dreamed.”
Sometimes it takes a traumatic experience to bring that God-given pull toward generosity to the surface.
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Who knows how familiar Mr. King is with the Old Testament. I wouldn’t venture a guess. But intentionally or otherwise, his remarks on giving perfectly support the book of Ecclesiastes’s observation: “We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us” (5:15). They also echo the mind-set that takes the sting out of this condition, as spoken by Jesus in the New Testament: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
–Nelson Searcy and Jennifer Dykes Henson
The above excerpt is from pgs. 39-41 of The Generosity Ladder: Your Next Step to Financial Peace.
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